Single Shot Espresso: Ukraine Supplemental – Interview with Dmitry Kolesnik

Court Proceedings of the Moscow Trials

Please download and distribute freely.

Late Night Marxism – Episode 1 – January 2014

Introducing my new monthly podcast “Late Night Marxism with Espresso Stalinist.” Hope you enjoy it!

 - E.S.

Karl Marx on New Year’s Day

marx

“At present, I am suffering from inflammation of the liver. And a very nice New Year’s gift too! Hitherto, the complaint has merely been chronic. Now it is becoming acute.”

- Karl Marx, “Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle In Berlin,” 1861

Mark Twain on New Year’s Day

MarkTwainCigar

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drinks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”

Thoughts on Georges Soria’s Denunciation of “Trotskyism in the Service of Franco”

soria_trotskyismby Espresso Stalinist

Recently I was reading a PDF of the 1938 pamphlet Trotskyism in the Service of Franco: Facts and Documents on the Activities of the P.O.U.M. in Spain by Georges Soria. Soria was a representative in Spain of the French communist paper L’Humanité and also wrote for the International Press Correspondence of the Comintern. The material for the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles reporting on the situation of the Spanish Civil War.

Forty years after its original publication, Soria is said to have denounced the work and its contents as a forgery.

The work has subsequently been dismissed as a fabrication for a number of years. It is now cited by Trotskyists as evidence of a “Stalinist” campaign to smear the P.O.U.M. as fascist agents. Jeffrey Meyers, a biographer of George Orwell, called it “a vicious book” and Orwell himself dedicated lengthy passages in his novel “Homage to Catalonia” to blaming the Communists for similar accusations, and for the loss in Spain as a whole. The pamphlet has become a tool to denounce the heroic role of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) in the Spanish Civil War as counterrevolutionary.

The copy of the full pamphlet in its 1938 form on the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) comes with an editor’s note that cites the original author apparently claiming the work and its contents are a complete forgery:

“Forty years later, in a work about the Spanish civil war (Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939, III, 78-79), Soria himself stated – without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation  – that ‘the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence’ and the whole story was ‘an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism’” (Marxists Internet Archive).

It’s worth noting MIA are not the first ones to use these quotes to “disprove” the Soria pamphlet. Many scholarly and non-scholarly books have used them as well.

As the MIA editor’s note shows, the original source for these quotes from Soria is the book “Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939.” This source is not available to me. However, I did find another source that details the full unedited quotes by Soria which are being cited as proof his work is a forgery: the book “Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution” by Burnett Bolloten.

Within this source there is enough information to argue that the way the quotes from Soria are often presented is quite deceptive. Here I will present only what are actual quoted words from Soria, and omit the words and phrases MIA inserted between them. The first quote that is commonly used is that Soria said that:

“[…] the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence.”

The second quote, which MIA and others present as being about “the whole story,” (more on this later) meaning about the entire contents of Soria’s pamphlet, says:

“[…] an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

These passages in quotes are the only portions of the editor’s note that were actually said by Soria. Now I will present the full and unedited Soria quotes in their original context as cited in Bolloten’s book. All portions in brackets [ ] without the annotation “E.S.” appeared in brackets in the original Bolloten text. The first full quote reads as follows:

“Forty years later however, in an attempt to exculpate the Spanish Communists from responsibility for the death of Nin, he [Soria – E.S.] stated that ‘the accusations leveled against Nin in Spain in the form of the couplet: ‘Where is Nin? In Salamanca or Berlin?’ were ‘purely and simply…an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.’”

So Soria was not, in fact, talking about his pamphlet, but rather the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents. Soria then blames the NKVD for the death of Nin, which is what he dismissed as “an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

Bolloten even goes on to condemn Soria for his “attempt…to exonerate the PCE by shifting responsibility for the crusade against the P.O.U.M. and for the disappearance of Nin to the phenomenon of ‘Stalinism’” (507). So the Soria quote specifically speaks of the charges against Nin and one story of his disappearance.

The MIA editor’s note however, frames this quote as being about “the whole story,” implying that it’s about his original work and all charges of the P.O.U.M. acting as agents (either de-facto agents or actual spies) of Franco or Hitler:

“the whole story was ‘an extension…[Soria quote continues as above].”

As we can clearly see however, in this first quote Soria was not talking about his pamphlet or the “whole story,” but specifically about the alleged liberation of Andrés Nin from prison by fascist agents, which Soria recounts in the pamphlet, though he does not mention the involvement of the Gestapo but rather implies that fascist agents may have been involved.

Bolloten then cites the second Soria quote used by MIA in the same paragraph, which contains even greater pronounced differences with the MIA citation. The original says:

“On the one hand, the charge that the leaders of the POUM, among them Andrés Nin, were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence. On the other hand, although the leaders of the POUM were neither agents of Franco nor agents of the Gestapo, it is true that their relentless struggle against the Popular Front played the game nolens volens of the Caudillo [General Franco]” (Bolloten 507).

So despite Soria claiming that the charges of the P.O.U.M. leadership, including Nin, being fascist spies was without evidence, he still blamed the P.O.U.M. for taking an ultra-left position and undermining the popular front in Spain, which still rendered de-facto service to the fascists. In other words, even if the Trotskyists and ultra-lefts in the P.O.U.M. were completely innocent of all charges and were not agents of the Gestapo or Franco, they “only” offered de-facto, and not de-jure, service to Franco.

The phrasing here says that even though he claims there is no evidence of the P.O.U.M. leadership being fascist agents and spies, Soria does not deny the fact that they rendered service to Franco, using the phrase, “nolens volens,” meaning “whether willing or unwilling.”

The editor’s note on MIA omits this second phrase for obvious reasons. There are a number of other interesting points regarding these full, unedited quotes that are worth pointing out.

In these quotes Soria does not denounce his original work – merely the specific charge that the P.O.U.M. leadership were spies of the Gestapo and Franco. He does say it was “impossible to adduce the slightest evidence,” which can be said to imply that the documents and sources he cites in the pamphlet are, at least in part, forgeries. However, this is not stated specifically. In fact, Soria does not mention his work at all! This is implicitly stated by the editor’s note on the MIA page, which states that Soria spoke “without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation.” His “role,” of course, was the pamphlet!

To some extent MIA makes a valid point about Soria never mentioning his own “role” in the charges that he claims was a “fabrication…[without] the slightest evidence.” Assuming the work is a complete fabrication, Soria never claimed to have been coerced to write the pamphlet, and never mentions an outside party forcing him to do so. Therefore, even in the case that it is a complete forgery, until there is proof that Soria authored it under the influence of an outside force, the blame must be placed not on the Soviet Union, “Stalinism” or the PCE, but on Soria the author for allegedly forging the evidence in his articles in the first place, and allowing those articles to be published as a pamphlet.

It’s also worth repeating that though Soria expresses his belief that the charges against the “P.O.U.M. leadership” being fascist spies was false and without evidence, this does not mean everyone in the P.O.U.M. was innocent of such activities, and Soria says explicitly that the P.O.U.M.’s actions still helped Hitler and Franco, even if unwillingly. One must ask then: how does this in any way exonerate the P.O.U.M.?

Furthermore, why Soria should choose forty years after the publication of the original document, long after such a “confession” of forgery could have had any effect whatsoever on the anti-fascist war in Spain or its outcome is unclear, thought it must be pointed out that these words were said after Soria became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF, and during the era of “de-Stalinization,” where the virtues of making slanderous statements and denunciations regarding the Stalin era were looked upon with favor both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The pace for this was set by the many utter falsehoods uttered by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress, and the decades of revisionism that followed.

CONCLUSION: Until there is more direct evidence that Georges Soria denounced his articles and the documents he cited in them as forgeries, there is no reason to “dismiss” them from consideration as evidence, and though he later claimed the charges against the P.O.U.M. leadership were baseless and there was no evidence for them, implying that at least part of the original work was false and/or mistaken, the conclusion that Soria admitted his work and all of its contents were complete forgeries cannot be supported by the existing facts.

https://www.marxists.org/history/spain/writers/soria/trotskyism_in_service_of_franco.htm

Happy 135th Birthday Joseph Stalin: Celebrate a Life Lived in Service to the People!

December 21st, 2013

This is the Espresso Stalinist, inviting you all to keep this time of year a time of celebration, love, revolution and socialism. This is the true meaning of this day. Thank you, Koba. Thank you for all you did for us.

Thank You, Koba

by Charlie Mann

I could never have known
That I would learn so much
From just one man.
By now, he is merely
Words,
On paper and
on screens,
Perhaps the odd bust that
Survived repression;

But no living man has
Encouraged me,
Chastised me,
Taught me,
Emboldened me,
Given me
Courage,
Confidence,
Strength and
Determination
quite so much -

I salute you,
Tovarich,
Our revolution lives on.

Link to Poem

Happy 135th Birthday Joseph Stalin: Celebrate a Life Lived in Service to the People!


IMG_0217

Stalin_1902


young-Bolshevik-Stalin


01w/11/arve/G2356/005


1465987_10151819721457826_1912433515_o
1512638_10151819722177826_576682349_n
stalin
1525202_10151819722717826_26100703_n
1488890_10151819723302826_1365587649_n
1511049_10151819723867826_1128544534_n


Tehran-Conference2
00733518.jpg


Stalin1952

1509851_10151819725212826_1207788968_n
1526645_563815900372632_75816373_n

Grover Furr: Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in September 1939? (The answer: No, it did not.)

371912

by Grover Furr

Introduction

Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland on September 17, 1939? Why ask? “We all know” this invasion occurred. “You can look it up!” All authoritative sources agree. This historical event happened.

Here’s a recent article in The New York Review of Books (April 30, 2009, p. 17) by Timothy Snyder, Yale University professor, academic expert in this area — and fanatic anticommunist — who just has to know that what he writes here is, to put it politely, false:

Because the film (although not the book)* begins with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 rather than the joint German-Soviet invasion and division of Poland in 1939… the Soviet state had just months earlier been an ally of Nazi Germany… (* “Defiance”)

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

“After invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis and the Soviets divided the country as they had agreed to do in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…”
http://www.pbs.org/behindcloseddoors/in-depth/struggle-poland.html

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

“… on 17 September, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east…”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland

Every historian I have read, even those who do not conform to Cold War paradigms, state unproblematically that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939.

But the truth is that the USSR did not invade Poland in September, 1939. Even though the chances are at least 99 to 1 that every history book you can find says that it did. I have yet to find an English-language book that gets this correct. And, of course, the USSR had never been an “ally of Nazi Germany.”

I will present a lot of evidence in support of this statement. There is a great deal more evidence to support what I say – much more than I can present here, and no doubt much more that I have not yet even identified or located.

Furthermore, at the time it was widely acknowledged that no such invasion occurred. I’ll demonstrate that too.

Probably the truth of this matter was another victim of the post-WW2 Cold War, when a great many falsehoods about Soviet history were invented or popularized. The truth about this and many other questions concerning the history of the first socialist state has simply become “unmentionable in polite company.”

Demonizing – I use the word advisedly, it is not too strong – the history of the communist movement and anything to do with Stalin has become de rigeur, a shibboleth of respectability. And not only among avowed champions of capitalism but among ourselves, on the left, among Marxists, opponents of capitalism, the natural constituency of a movement for communism.

Some time ago Doug Henwood tweaked me on the MLG list for “defending Stalin.”

I could make a crack about what defenses of Stalin have to do with a “sensible materialism,” but that would be beneath me.
(MLG list May 17 2009)

Doug thinks he knows something about Stalin and the USSR during Stalin’s time. He doesn’t! But you can’t blame him too much, since none of us do. More precisely: We “know” a lot of things about the Soviet Union and Stalin, and almost all of those things are just not true. We’ve been swallowing lies for the truth our whole lives.

I’ll be brief in this presentation. I have prepared separate web pages with references to much of the evidence I have found (not all – there is just too much). I’m also preparing a longer version for eventual publication.

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

For a discussion of the events that led up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 an excellent account is still Bill Bland, “The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939″ (1990). I have checked every citation in this article; most are available online now. It’s very accurate, but far more detailed than the present article requires.

Before we get into the question of the invasion that did not take place, the reader needs to become familiar with some misconceptions about the Nonaggression Treaty and why they are false. These too are based on anticommunist propaganda that is widely, if naively, “believed.”

The most common, and most false, of these is stated above in the PBS series “Behind Closed Doors”

…the Nazis and the Soviets divided the country as they had agreed to do in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…

This is completely false, as any reading of the text of the M-R Pact itself will reveal. Just read the words on the page (see below).

The Soviets Wanted to Protect the USSR – and therefore to Preserve Independent Poland

[For the text of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact see m-rpact.html ]

It is conventionally stated as fact that the Nonaggression Pact between the USSR and Germany (often called the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” or “Treaty” after the two foreign ministers who signed it) was an agreement to “partition Poland”, divide it up.

This is completely false. I’ve prepared a page with much fuller evidence; see  “The Secret Protocols to the M-R Pact Did NOT Plan Any Partition of Poland”.

No doubt a big reason for this falsehood is this: Britain and France did sign a Nonaggression Pact with Hitler that “partitioned” another state — Czechoslovakia. That was the Munich Agreement of September 30, 1938.

Poland too took part in the “partition” of Czechoslovakia too. Poland seized a part of the Cieszyn area of Czechoslovakia, even though it had only a minority Polish population. This invasion and occupation was not even agreed upon in the Munich Agreement. But neither France nor Britain did anything about it.

Hitler seized the remaining part of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. This had not been foreseen in the Munich Agreement. But Britain, France, and Poland did nothing about it.

So the anticommunist “Allies” Britain, France, and Poland really did participate in the partitioning of a powerless state! Maybe that’s why the anticommunist “party line” is that the USSR did likewise? But whatever the reason for this lie, it remains a lie.

The Soviet Union signed the Nonaggression Pact with Germany not to “partition Poland” like the Allies had partitioned Czechoslovakia, but in order to defend the USSR.

The Treaty included a line of Soviet interest within Poland beyond which German troops could not pass in the event Germany routed the Polish army in a war.

The point here was that, if the Polish army were beaten, it and the Polish government could retreat beyond the line of Soviet interest, and so find shelter, since Hitler had agreed not to penetrate further into Poland than that line. From there they could make peace with Germany. The USSR would have a buffer state, armed and hostile to Germany, between the Reich and the Soviet frontier.

The Soviets — “Stalin”, to use a crude synecdoche (= “a part that stands for the whole”) — did not do this out of any love for fascist Poland. The Soviets wanted a Polish government — ANY Polish government — as a buffer between the USSR and the Nazi armies.

The utter betrayal of the fascist Polish Government of its own people frustrated this plan.

As far as the rest of the world was concerned, the Polish government had two alternatives in the event its army was smashed by an attacking army.

1. It could stay inside the country, perhaps moving its capital away from the invading army. From there it could have sued for peace, or surrendered.

2. The Polish government could have fled to an allied country that was at war with Germany: either France or England.

The governments of all other countries defeated by Germany did one or both of these things. The Polish government — racist, anticommunist, hyper-nationalist, — in short fascist, as bad as they get — didn’t do either. Rather than fight the Polish government fled into neighboring Rumania.

Rumania was neutral in the war. By crossing into neutral Rumania the Polish government became prisoners. The legal word is “interned”. They could not function as a government from Rumania, or pass through Rumania to a country at war with Germany like France, because to permit them to do that would be a violation of Rumania’s neutrality, a hostile act against Germany.

I will discuss “internment” and the international law on this question extensively below.

The USSR did not invade Poland - and everybody knew it at the time

When Poland had no government, Poland was no longer a state. (More detailed discussion below)

What that meant was this: at this point Hitler had nobody with whom to negotiate a cease-fire, or treaty.

Furthermore, the M-R Treaty’s Secret Protocols were void, since they were an agreement about the state of Poland and no state of Poland existed any longer. Unless the Red Army came in to prevent it, there was nothing to prevent the Nazis from coming right up to the Soviet border.

Or — as we now know they were in fact preparing to do — Hitler could have formed one or more pro-Nazi states in what had until recently been Eastern Poland. That way Hitler could have had it both ways: claim to the Soviets that he was still adhering to the “spheres of influence” agreement of the M-R Pact while in fact setting up a pro-Nazi, highly militarized fascist Ukrainian nationalist state on the Soviet border.

Once the Nazis had told the Soviets that they, the Nazis, had decided that the Polish state no longer existed, then it did not make any difference whether the Soviets agreed or not. The Nazis were telling them that they felt free to come right up to the Soviet border. Neither the USSR nor any state would have permitted such a thing. Nor did international law demand it.

At the end of September a new secret agreement was concluded. In it the Soviet line of interest was far to the East of the “sphere of influence” line decided upon a month earlier in the Secret Protocol and published in Izvestiia and in the New York Times during September 1939. This reflected Hitler’s greater power, now that he had smashed the Polish military. See the map at new_spheres_0939.html

In this territory Poles were a minority, even after the “polonization” campaign of settling Poles in the area during the ‘20s and ‘30s. You can see the ethnic / linguistic population map at curzonline.html

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

How do we know the USSR did not commit aggression against, or “invade”, Poland when it occupied Eastern Poland beginning on September 17, 1939 after the Polish Government had interned itself in Rumania? Here are nine pieces of evidence:

How do we know the USSR did not commit aggression against, or “invade”, Poland when it occupied Eastern Poland beginning on September 17, 1939 after the Polish Government had interned itself in Rumania? Here are nine pieces of evidence:

1. The Polish government did not declare war on USSR.

The Polish government declared war on Germany when Germany invaded on September 1, 1939. It did not declare war on the USSR.

2. The Polish Supreme Commander Rydz-Smigly ordered Polish soldiers not to fight the Soviets, though he ordered Polish forces to continue to fight the Germans.

See rydz_dont_fight.html

3. The Polish President Ignaz Moscicki, interned in Rumania since Sept. 17, tacitly admitted that Poland no longer had a government.

See moscicki_resignation.html

4. The Rumanian government tacitly admitted that Poland no longer had a government.

See moscicki_resignation.html

 

The Rumanian position recognized the fact that Moscicki was blowing smoke when he claimed he had legally resigned on September 30.  So the Rumanian government fabricated a story according to which Moscicki had already resigned back on September 15, just before entering Rumania and being interned (NYT 10.04.39, p.12). Note that Moscicki himself did not claim this!

Rumania needed this legal fiction to try to sidestep the following issue. Once Moscicki had been interned in Rumania – that is, from September 17 1939 on – he could not function as President of Poland. Since resignation is an official act, Moscicki could not resign once he was in Rumania.

For our present purposes, here’s the significant point: Both the Polish leaders and the Rumanian government recognized that Poland was bereft of a government once the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania and were interned there.

Both Moscicki and Rumania wanted a legal basis – a fig-leaf — for such a government. But they disagreed completely about this fig-leaf, which exposes it as what it was – a fiction.

5. Rumania had a military treaty with Poland aimed against the USSR. Rumania did not declare war on the USSR.

The Polish government later claimed that it had “released” Rumania from its obligations under this military treaty in return for safe haven in Rumania.

But there is no evidence for this statement. No wonder: it is at least highly unlikely that Rumania would have ever promised “safe haven” for Poland, since that would have been an act of hostility against Nazi Germany. Rumania was neutral in the war and, as discussed below, insisted upon imprisoning the Polish goverment and disarming the Polish forced once they had crossed the border into Rumania.

The real reason for Rumania’s failure to declare war on the USSR is probably the one given in a New York Times article of September 19, 1939:

“The Rumanian viewpoint concerning the Rumanian-Polish anti-Soviet agreement is that it would be operative only if a Russian attack came as an isolated event and not as a consequence of other wars.”
– “Rumania Anxious; Watches Frontier.” NYT 09.19.39, p.8.

That means Rumania recognized that the Red Army was not allied with Germany, an “other war.” This is tacit recognition of the Soviet and German position that Poland no longer had a government, and therefore was no longer a state.

6. France did not declare war on the USSR, though it had a mutual defense treaty with Poland.

See m-rpact.html for the reconstructed text of the “secret military protocol” of this treaty, which has been “lost” – i.e. which the French government still keeps “secret”

7. England never demanded that the USSR withdraw its troops from Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, the parts of the former Polish state occupied by the Red Army after September 17, 1939.

On the contrary, the British government concluded that these territories should not be a part of a future Polish state. Even the Polish government-in-exile agreed!

See maisky_101739_102739.html  These documents are in the original Russian, with the relevant quotations translated into English below them.

8. The League of Nations did not determine the USSR had invaded a member state.

Article 16 of the League of Nations Covenant required members to take trade and economic sanctions against any member who “resorted to war”.

No country took any sanctions against the USSR. No country broke diplomatic relations with the USSR over this action.

However, when the USSR attacked Finland in 1939 the League did vote to expel the USSR, and several countries broke diplomatic relations with it. See http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1939/391214a.html

A very different response! which tells us how the League viewed the Soviet action in the case of Poland.

9. All countries accepted the USSR’s declaration of neutrality.

All, including the belligerent Polish allies France and England, agreed that the USSR was not a belligerent power, was not participating in the war. In effect they accepted the USSR’s claim that it was neutral in the conflict.

See FDR’s “Proclamation 2374 on Neutrality”, November 4, 1939:

“…a state of war unhappily exists between Germany and France; Poland; and the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa,…”

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15831&st=&st1=

- also “152 – Statement on Combat Areas” – defines

“belligerent ports, British, French, and German, in Europe or Africa…”

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15833&st=&st1=

The Soviet Union is not mentioned as a belligerent. That means the USA did not consider the USSR to be at war with Poland. For the Soviet Union’s claim of neutrality see soviet_neutrality.html

Naturally, a country cannot “invade” another country and yet credibly claim that it is “neutral” with respect to the war involving that country. But NONE of these countries declared the USSR a belligerent. Nor did the United States, the League of Nations, or any country in the world.

The Polish State Collapsed

By September 17, 1939, when Soviet troops crossed the border, the Polish government had ceased to function. The fact that Poland no longer had a government meant that Poland was no longer a state.

On September 17 when Molotov handed Polish Ambassador to the USSR Grzybowski the note Grzybowski told Molotov that he did not know where his government was, but had been informed that he should contact it through Bucharest. See polish_state_collapsed.html

In fact the last elements of the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania and so into internment during the day of September 17, according to a United Press dispatch published on page four of the New York Times on September 18 with a dateline of Cernauti, Rumania. See polish_leaders_flee.html

Without a government, Poland as a state had ceased to exist under international law. This fact is denied — more often, simply ignored — by anticommunists, for whom it is a bone in the throat.

We take a closer look at this issue in the next section below. But a moment’s reflection will reveal the logic of this position. With no government — the Polish government was interned in Rumania, remember — there is no one to negotiate with; no body to which the police, local governments, and the military are responsible. Polish ambassadors to foreign countries no longer represent their government, because there is no government. (See the page polish_state_collapsed.html , especially the NYT article of October 2, 1939 )

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

EVERY definition of a “state” recognizes the necessity of a government or “organized political authority.” Once the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania, it was no longer a “government.”

Even the Polish officials of the day recognized this by trying to create the impression that “the government” had never been interned since it had been handed over to somebody else before crossing into Rumania. See the discussion concerning Moscicki and his “desire to resign” on September 29, 1939, also cited above.

So EVERYBODY, Poles included, recognized that by interning themselves in Rumania the Polish government had created a situation whereby Poland was no longer a “state.” This is not just “a reasonable interpretation” – not just an intelligent, logical deduction but one among several possible deductions. As I have demonstrated in this paper, it was virtually everybody’s interpretation at the time. Every major power, plus the former Polish Prime Minister himself, shared it.

Once this is problem is squarely faced, everything else flows from it.

* The Secret Protocol to the M-R Pact was no longer valid, in that it was about spheres of influence in “Poland”, a state.

By September 15 at the latest Germany had taken the position that Poland no longer existed as a state (discussed further here).

Once Poland ceased to exist as a state this Secret Protocol did not apply any longer.

Therefore if they wanted to the Germans could march right up to the Soviet frontier.

Or – and this is what Hitler was in fact going to do if the Soviet Union did not send in troops — they could facilitate the creation of puppet states, like a pro-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist state.

In any case, once Hitler had taken the position that Poland no longer existed as a state, and therefore that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact’s agreement on spheres of influence in the state of Poland was no longer valid, the Soviet Union had only two choices: either to

  1. Send the Red Army into Western Ukraine and Wester Belorussia to establish sovereignty there; or
  2. Let Hitler send the Nazi army right up to the Soviet border.

* Since the Polish state had ceased to exist, the Soviet-Polish nonaggression pact was no longer in effect.

The Red Army could cross the border without “invading” or “committing aggression against” Poland. By sending its troops across the border the USSR was claiming sovereignty, so no one else could do so – e.g. a pro-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist state, or Nazi Germany itself.

* Legitimacy flows from the state, and there was no longer any Polish state.

Therefore the Polish Army was no longer a legitimate army, but a gang of armed men acting without any legitimacy. Having no legitimacy, the Polish Army should have immediately laid down its arms and surrendered. Of course it could keep fighting — but then it would no longer be fighting as a legitimate army but as partisans. Partisans have NO rights at all except under the laws of the government that does claim sovereignty.

* Some Polish nationalists claim that the Soviets showed their “perfidy” by refusing, once they had sent troops across the Soviet frontier, to allow the Polish army cross the border into Rumania.

But this is all wrong. The USSR had diplomatic relations with Rumania. The USSR could not permit thousands of armed men to cross the border from areas where it held sovereignty into Rumania, a neighboring state. Imagine if, say, Mexico or Canada tried to permit thousands of armed men to cross the border into the USA!

Re-negotiation of “Spheres of Influence” September 28 1939

See new_spheres_0939.html

All this is referred to directly in a Ribbentrop (German Foreign Minister)-to-Schulenburg (German ambassador to Moscow) communication of September 15-16 – Telegram No. 360 of 15 September 1939 — with its reference to “the possibility of the formation in this area of new states.”

Note that Ribbentrop is very displeased with the idea that the Soviets would “tak[e] the threat to the Ukrainian and White Russian populations by Germany as a ground for Soviet action” and wants Schulenberg to get Molotov to give some other motive. He was unsuccessful; this was exactly the motive the Soviets gave:

“Nor can it be demanded of the Soviet Government that it remain indifferent to the fate of its blood brothers, the Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland, who even formerly were without rights and who now have been abandoned entirely to their fate.
The Soviet Government deems it its sacred duty to extend the hand of assistance to its brother Ukrainians and brother Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland.”

- TASS, September 17, 1939; quoted in New York Times September 18, 1939, p. 5; also Jane Degras (Ed.), Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy 1933-1941, vol. III (London/New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 374-375.

The German government was already considering that Poland no longer existed — there’s no reference to “Poland”, only to “the area lying to the East of the German zone of influence”, etc.

Polish Imperialism

A word of explanation regarding the Soviet reference to “the fate of its blood brothers, the Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland.”

At the Treaty of Riga signed in March 1921 the Russian Republic (the Soviet Union was not officially formed until 1924), exhausted by the Civil War and foreign intervention, agreed to give half of Belorussia and Ukraine to the Polish imperialists in return for a desperately-needed peace.

We use the words “Polish imperialists” advisedly, because Poles — native speakers of the Polish language — were in the small minority in Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, the areas that passed to Poland in this treaty. The Polish capitalist regime then encouraged ethnic Poles to populate these areas to “polonize” them, and put all kinds of restrictions on the use of the Belorussian and Ukrainian languages.

Up till the beginning of 1939, when Hitler decided to turn against Poland before making war on the USSR, the Polish government was maneuvering to join Nazi Germany in a war on the USSR in order to seize more territory.

As late as January 26, 1939, Polish Foreign Minister Beck was discussing this with Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Warsaw. Ribbentrop wrote:

… 2. I then spoke to M. Beck once more about the policy to be pursued by Poland and Germany towards the Soviet Union and in this connection also spoke about the question of the Greater Ukraine and again proposed Polish-German collaboration in this field.

M. Beck made no secret of the fact that Poland had aspirations directed toward the Soviet Ukraine and a connection with the Black Sea…

(Original in Akten zur deutschen ausw�rtigen Politik… Serie D. Bd. V. S. 139-140. English translation in Documents on German Foreign Policy. 1918-1945. Series D. Vol. V. The document in question is No. 126, pp. 167-168; this quotation on p. 168. Also in Russian in God Krizisa T. 1, Doc. No. 120.)

Polish Foreign Minister Beck was telling Ribbentrop that Poland would like to seize ALL of the Ukraine from the USSR, for that was the only way Poland could have had “a connection with the Black Sea.”

In occupying Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine the USSR was reuniting Belorussians and Ukrainians, East and West. This is what the Soviets meant by the claim that they were “liberating” these areas. The word “liberation” is conventionally used when an occupying imperialist power withdraws, and that’s what happened here.

The Polish Government In Exile

At the beginning of October 1939 the British and French governments recognized a Polish government-in-exile in France (later it moved to England). This was an act of hostility against Germany, of course. But the UK and France were already at war with Germany. (The USA took the position of refusing to recognize the conquest of Poland, but treated the Polish government-in-exile in Paris in an equivocal manner. Evidently it wasn’t sure what to do.)

The USSR could not recognize it for a number of reasons:

* Recognizing it would be incompatible with the neutrality of the USSR in the war.

It would be an act of hostility against Germany, with which the USSR had a non-aggression pact and a desire to avoid war. (The USSR did recognize it in July 1941, after the Nazi invasion).

* The Polish government-in-exile could not exercise sovereignty anywhere.

Most important: if the USSR were to recognize the Polish government-in-exile, the USSR would have had to retreat back to its pre-September 1939 borders – because the Polish government-in-exile would never recognize the Soviet occupation of Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine.

Then Germany would have simply marched up to the Soviet frontier. 

To permit that would have been a crime against the Soviet people, of course. And, as the British and French soon agreed, a blow against them, and a big boost to Hitler as well. See should_the_ussr_have_permitted.html

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

No other government during WW2 did anything remotely like what the Polish government did.

Many governments of countries conquered by the Axis formed “governments in exile” to continue the war. But only the Polish government interned itself in a neutral country, thereby stripping itself of the ability to function as a government and stripping their own people of their existence as a state.

What should the Polish government leader have done, once they realized they were completely beaten militarily?

  • The Polish government should have remained somewhere in Poland – if not in the capital, Warsaw, then in Eastern Poland. If they had set up an alternative capital in the East — something the Soviets had prepared to do East of Moscow, in case the Nazis captured Moscow — then they could have preserved a “rump” Poland.
    There it should have capitulated – as, for example, the French Government did in July 1940. Or, it could have sued for peace, as the Finnish government did in March 1940.
    Then Poland, like Finland, would have remained as a state, though it would certainly have lost territory.
  • Or, the Polish government could have fled to Great Britain or France, countries already at war with Germany.
    Polish government leaders could have fled by air any time. Or they could have gotten to the Polish port of Gdynia, which held out until September 14, and fled by boat.
  • Why didn’t they? Did Polish government leaders think they might be killed? Well, so what? Tens of thousands of their fellow citizens and soldiers were being killed!
    • Maybe they really did believe Rumania would violate its neutrality with Germany and let them pass through to France? If they did believe this, they were remarkably stupid. There’s never been any evidence that the Rumanian government gave them permission to do this.
    • Did they believe Britain and France were going to “save” them? If so, that too was remarkably stupid. Even if the British and French really intended to field a large army to attack German forces in the West, the Polish army would have had to hold against the Wehrmacht for a month at least, perhaps more. But the Polish Army was in rapid retreat after the first day or two of the war.
    • Or, maybe they fled simply out of sheer cowardice. That is what their flight out of Warsaw, the Polish capital, suggests.

Everything that happened afterwards was a result of the Polish government being interned in Rumania.

Here’s how the world might have been different if a “rump” Poland had remained after surrender to Hitler:

* A “rump” Poland might finally have agreed to make a mutual defense pact that included the USSR. That would have restarted “collective security”, the anti-Nazi alliance between the Western Allies and the USSR that the Soviets sought but UK and French leaders rejected.

That would have

  • greatly weakened Hitler;
  • probably eliminating much of the Jewish Holocaust;
  • certainly preventing the conquest of France, Belgium, and the rest of Europe;
  • certainly prevented many millions of deaths of Soviet citizens.

* Poland could have emerged from WW2 as an independent state, perhaps a neutral one, like Finland, Sweden, or Austria.

All this, and more – if only the Polish government had remained in their country at least long enough to surrender, as every other government did.

Conclusion

See conclusion.html

Source

Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence

Graphs in the original are shown here as embedded images that are compressed to fit the site’s format. Please click the images to see the original graphs full size.

 - E.S.

Contributors

Peter A. Coclanis is an associate professor of history and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Universitv of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He worked under Stuart W. Bruchey at Columbia University, earning his doctorate in 1984. He is the author of The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670-1920 (1989), as well as of numerous articles in economic and social history. Currently, he is writing a book on the history of rice. Coclanis spent the 1992-1993 academic year conducting research in Southeast Asia on a Fulbright Research Fellowship.

J. Arch Getty is a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. He studied with Roberta Manning and received his Ph.D. from Boston College in 1979. He is the author of Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1949 (1985) and co-editor of Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (1993). His research is on the political history of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and concentrates on the history of the Soviet Communist Party. Getty is now writing (with Gabor Rittersporn) Society and Politics in the Soviet 1930s (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press), a treatment of the state-society question in the pre-war Stalin period, and is collaborating in the editing of a series of researchers’ guides to Russian archives.

James L. Huston is an associate professor of history at Oklahoma State University. He received his doctorate in 1980 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, under the guidance of Robert W. Johannsen. He is the author of The Panic of 1857 and the Coming of the Civil War (1987), which was subsequently awarded the Phi Alpha Theta prize for an author’s first book. Although Huston has pursued a number of topics in political and economic history, his major concern has

been an investigation of protectionist political economy. He is currently completing a book-length manuscript on this topic.

Marc Raeff is Bakhmeteff Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Columbia University. He earned his doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1950. His recent books include The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies arid Russia, 1600-1800(1983), Understanding Imperial Russia: State and Society in the Old Regime (1984), and Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of the Russian Emigration, 1919-1939 (1990).

Gabor T. Rittersporn is a senior research fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. He studied at the universities of Szeged (Hungary), Leningrad, and Tokyo, defending his doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in 1979. His research interests involve the interaction of collective representations, social practices, and political processes in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, with particular emphasis on the evolution of penal policy. Rittersporn is the author of Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications: Social Tensions and Political Conflicts in the USSR, 1933-1953 (1991).

Paul W. Schroeder is professor of history and political science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of three books and many articles on the history of international politics from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as Austrian and German history. His latest work, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848, will be published by Oxford University Press in the Oxford History of Modern Europe series early in 1994. His current research is on change, development, and learning in international politics, 1648 to 1945.

Carl Strikwerda received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan under the supervision of Louise A. Tilly and is now an associate professor of history at the University of Kansas. The co-editor with Camille Guerin-Gonzales, Oberlin College, of The Politics of Immigrant Workers: Labor Activism andMigration in the World Economy since 1830 (1993), he is currently editing a volume with Ellen Furlough. Kenyon College, on the history of consumer cooperation. Strikwerda has hadarticles published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, International Labor and Working Class History, and theJournal of Urban History, and recently completed a manuscript on Catholic and Socialist workers in Belgium between 1870 and 1914. His article in this issue grew out of research for a book on the conflict between nationalism and internationalism in the era of World War 1.

Viktor N. Zemskov is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He received his kandidat nauk degree from the History Faculty of Moscow State University in 1974, specializing in the history of the Soviet working class. He has written The Leading Force of National StruggleThe Struggle of the Soviet Working Class in the Period of Fascist Occupation of the USSR, 1941-1944 (in Russian) (1986). In 1989, Zemskov was among the first researchers admitted to the secret archives of the GULAG system, and he published a series of articles in Argumenty i fakty and Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia on prisoners, exiles, and repatriation in the Stalin period. He is now preparing two books, one on Soviet citizens dn forced labor in Nazi Germany, 1941-1945 and another on exiles in the USSR, 1930-1960.

Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence

J. ARCH GETTY, GABOR T. RITTERSPORN, and VIKTOR N. ZEMSKOV

The Great purges of the 1930s were a maelstrom of political violence that engulfed all levels of society and all walks of life. Often thought to have begun in 1934 with the assassination of Politburo member Sergei Kirov, the repression first struck former political dissidents in 1935-1936. It then widened and reached its apogee in 1937-1938 with the arrest and imprisonment or execution of a large proportion of the Communist Party Central Committee, the military high command, and the state bureaucracy. Eventually, millions of ordinary Soviet citizens were drawn into the expanding terror.

Debate in the West about the precise numbers of victims has appeared in the scholarly press for several years and has been characterized by wide disparity, often of several millions, between high and low estimates. Using census and other data, scholars have put forward conflicting computations of birth, mortality, and arrests in order to calculate levels of famine deaths due to agricultural collectivization (1932-1933), victims of the Great Terror (1936-1939), and total “unnatural” population loss in the Stalin period. Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, Robert Conquest, Steven Rosefielde, and others have posited relatively high estimates (see Table 1). On the other hand, Stephen Wheatcroft and others working from the same sources have put forth lower totals. Both “high” and “low” estimators have bemoaned the lack of solid archival evidence and have claimed that should such materials become available, they would confirm the author’s projection. The debate, along with disputes on the “totalitarian” nature of the Stalinist regime, the importance of Joseph Stalin’s personality, and the place of social history in Soviet studies, has polarized the field into two main camps, perhaps unfortunately labeled “Cold Warriors” and “revisionists.” Revisionists have accused the other side of using second- hand sources and presenting figures that are impossible to justify, while the proponents of high estimates have criticized revisionists for refusing to accept grisly facts and even for defending Stalin. Both sides have accused the other of sloppy or incompetent scholarship.

Now, for the first time, Soviet secret police documents are available that permit us to narrow sharply the range of estimates of victims of the Great Purges. These materials are from the archival records of the Secretariat of GULAG, the Main Camp Administration of the NKVD/MVD (the USSR Ministry of the Interior). They were housed in the formerly “special” (that is, closed) sections of the Central State Archive of the October Revolution of the USSR (TsGAOR), which is now part of the newly organized State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). A few Moscow scholars (among them V. N. Zemskov) had access to some of them in the past but were not allowed to cite them properly. Now, according to the liberalized access regulations in Russian archives, scholars are able to consult these documents and to publish exact citations. (See “A Note on Sources” at the end of this article.)

We propose to deal here only with quantitative elements of the terror, with what we can now document of the scale of the repression. Of course, such a cold numerical approach risks overshadowing the individual personal and psychological horror of the event. Millions of lives were unjustly taken or destroyed in the Stalin period; the scale of suffering is almost impossible to comprehend. The horrifying irrationality of the carnage involves no debatable moral questions – destruction of people can have no pros and cons. There has been a tendency to accuse “low estimators” of somehow justifying or defending Stalin (as if the deaths of 3 million famine victims were somehow less blameworthy than 7 million).

Scholars and commentators will make use of the data as they choose, and it is not likely that this new information will end the debates. Still, it seems a useful step to present the first available archival evidence on the scale of the Great Terror. Admittedly, our figures are far from being complete and sometimes pose almost as many questions as they answer. They nevertheless give a fairly accurate picture of the orders of magnitude involved and show the possibilities and limits of the data presently available.

The penal system admrnistered by the NKVD (Peoples’ Commissariat of Internal Affairs) in the 1930s had several components: prisons, labor camps, and labor colonies, as well as “special settlements” and various types of non-custodial supervision. Generally speaking, the first stop for an arrested person was a prison, where an investigation and interrogation led to conviction or, more rarely, release. After sentencing, most victims were sent to: one of the labor camps or colonies to serve their terms. In December 1940, the jails of the USSR had a theoretical prescribed capacity of 234,000, although they then held twice that number. Considering this-and comparing the levels of prison populations given in the Appendixes for the 1930s and 1940s one can assume that the size of the prison system was probably not much different in the 1930s.

Second, we find a system of labor camps. These were the terrible “hard regime” camps populated by dangerous common criminals, those important politicals” the regime consigned to severe punishment, and, as a rule, by other people sentenced to more than three years of detention. On March 1, 1940, at the end of the Great Purges, there were 53 corrective labor camps (ispravitel’no-trudovye lageri: ITL) of the GULAG system holding some 1.3 million inmates. Most of the data cited in this article bear on the GULAG camps, some of which had a multitude of subdivisions spreading over vast territories and holding large numbers of people. BAMLAG, the largest camp in the period under review, held more than 260,000 inmates at the beginning of 1939, and SEVVOSTLAG (the notorious Kolyma complex) some 138,000.

Third came a network of 425 “corrective labor colonies” of varying types. These colonies were meant to confine prisoners serving short sentences, but this rule varied with time. The majority of these colonies were organized to produce for the economy and housed some 315,000 persons in 1940. They were nevertheless under the control of the NKVD and were managed-like the rest of the colony network-by its regional administrations. Additionally, there were 90 children’s homes under the auspices of the NKVD.

Fourth, there was the network of “special resettlements.” In the 1930s, these areas were populated largely by peasant families deported from the central districts as “kulaks” (well-to-do peasants) during the forced collectivization of the early 1930s. Few victims of the Great Purges of 1936-1939 were so exiled or put under other forms of non-custodial supervision: in 1937-1938, only 2.1 percent of all those sentenced on charges investigated by the political police fell into this category. This is why we will not treat exile extensively below.

Finally, there was a system of non-custodial “corrective work” (ispravitel’no-trudovye raboty), which included various penalties and fines. These were quite

common throughout the 1930s-they constituted 48 percent of all court sentences in 1935-and the numbers of such convictions grew under the several laws on labor discipline passed on the eve of the war. Typically, such offenders were condemned to up to one year at “corrective labor,” the penalty consisting of work at the usual place of one’s employment, with up to 25 percent reduction of wage and loss of credit for this work toward the length of service that gave the right to social benefits (specific allocations, vacation, pension). More than 1.7 million persons received such a sentence in the course of 1940 and almost all of them worked in their usual jobs “without deprivation of freedom.” As with resettlements, this correctional system largely falls outside the scope of the Great Terror.

Figure A provides the annual totals for the detained population (GULAG camps, labor colonies, and “kulak” resettlements, minus prisons) in the years of the Great Purges. It shows that, despite previously accepted-and fairly inflated-figures to the contrary, the total camp and exile population does not seem to have exceeded 3.5 million before the war. Were we to extrapolate from the fragmentary prison data we do have (see the Appendixe’s), we might reasonably add a figure of 300,000-500,000 for each year, to put the maximum total detained population at around 3 million in the period of the Great Purges.

Image1

Figure A: Camp, Colony, and “Kulak” Exile Populations, USSR, 1935-1940

Mainstream published estimates of the total numbers of “victims of repression” in the late 1930s have ranged from Dmitrii Volkogonov’s 3.5 million to Ol’ga Shatunovskaia’s nearly 20 million. (See Table 1.) The bases for these assessments are unclear in most cases and seem to have come from guesses, rumors, or extrapolations from isolated local observations. As the table shows, the documentable numbers of victims are much smaller.

We now have archival data from the police and judiciary on several categories of repression in several periods: arrests, prison and camp growth, and executions in 1937-1938, and deaths in custody in the 1930s and the Stalin period generally. Runs of data on arrests, charges, sentences, and custodial populations in the 1930s unfortunately reflect the simultaneous actions of several punitive agencies including the secret police, procuracy, courts, and others, each of which kept their own records according to their own statistical needs. No single agency (not even the secret police) kept a “master list” reflecting the totality of repression. Great care is therefore needed to untangle the disparate events and actors in the penal process.

Table 1 Current Estimates of the Scale of Stalinist Repression

Image2

A 1953 statistical report on cases initiated or investigated by the NKVD provides data on arrests and on the purported reasons for them. According to these figures, 1,575,259 people were arrested by the security police in the course of 1937-1938, 87.1 percent of them on political grounds. Some 1,344,923, or 85.4 percent, of the people the secret police arrested in 1937-1938 were convicted. To be sure, the 1,575,259 people in the 1953 report do not comprise the total of 1937-1938 arrests. Court statistics put the number of prosecutions for infractions unrelated to “counterrevolutionary” charges at 1,566,185, but it is unlikely that all persons in this cohort count in the arrest figures. Especially if their sentence was non-custodial, such persons were often not formally arrested. After all, 53.1 percent of all court decisions involved non-custodial sentences in 1937 and 58.7 percent in 1938, and the sum total of those who were executed or incarcerated yields 647,438 persons in categories other than “counterrevolution.” Even if we remember that during the Great Purges the authorities were by far more inclined to detain suspects than in other times, it seems difficult to arrive at an estimate as high as 2.5 million arrests on all charges in 1937-1938.

Although we do not have exact figures for arrests in 1937-1938, we do know that the population of the camps increased by 175,487 in 1937. and 320,828 in 1938 (it had declined in 1936). The population of all labor camps, labor colonies, and prisons on January 1, 1939, near the end of the Great Purges; was 2,022,976 persons. This gives us a total increase in the custodial population in 1937-1938 of 1,006,030. Nevertheless, we must add to these data the number of those who had been arrested but not sent to camps, either because they were part of a small contingent released sometime later or because they were executed.

As Table 1 shows, popular estimates of executions in the Great Purges of 1937-1938 vary from 500,000 to 7 million. We do not have exact figures for the numbers of executions in these years, but we can now narrow the range considerably. We know that between October 1, 1936, and September 30, 1938, the Military Board of the Supreme Court, sitting in 60 cities and towns, sentenced 30,514 persons to be shot. According to a press release of the KGB, 786,098 persons were sentenced to death “for counterrevolutionary and state crimes” by various courts and extra-judicial bodies between 1930 and 1953. It seems that 681,692 people, or 86.7 percent of the number for this 23-year-period were shot in 1937-1938 (compared to 1,118 persons in 1936). A certain number of these unfortunates had been arrested before 1937, including exiled and imprisoned ex-oppositionists who were summarily killed in the autumn of 1937. More important, however, our figures on 1937-1938 executions are not entirely comparable to those quoted in the press release. Coming from a 1953 statistical report “on the quantity of people convicted on cases of NKVD bodies,” they also refer to victims who had not been arrested for political reasons, whereas the communique concerns only persons persecuted for “counterrevolutionary offenses.” In any event, the data available at this point make it clear that the number shot in the two worst purge years was more likely a question of hundreds of thousands than of millions.

Of course, aside from executions in the terror of 1937-1938, many others died in the regime’s custody in the decade of the 1930s. If we add the figure we have for executions up to 1940 to the number of persons who died in GULAG camps and the few figures we have found so far on mortality in prisons and labor colonies, then add to this the number of peasants known to have died in exile, we reach the figure of 1,473,424. To be sure, of 1,802,392 alleged kulaks and their relatives who had been banished in 1930-1931, only 1,317,022 were still living at their places of exile by January 1, 1932. (Many people escaped: their number is given as 207,010 only for the year of 1932.) But even if we put at hundreds of thousands the casualties of the most chaotic period of collectivization (deaths in exile, rather than from starvation in the 1932 famine), plus later victims of different categories for which we have no data, it is unlikely that “custodial mortality” figures of the 1930s would reach 2 million: a huge number of “excess deaths” but far below most prevailing estimates. Although the figures we can document for deaths related to Soviet penal policy are rough and inexact, the available sources provide a reliable order of magnitude, at least for the pre-war period.

Turning to executions and custodial deaths in the entire Stalin period, we know that, between 1934 and 1953, 1,053,829 persons died in the camps of the GULAG. We have data to the effect that some 86,582 people perished in prisons between 1939 and 1951. (We do not yet know exactly how many died in labor colonies.) We also know that, between 1930 and 1952-1953, 786,098 “counter-revolutionaries” were executed (or, according to another source, more than 775,866 persons “on cases of the police” and for “political crimes”). Finally, we know that, from 1932 through 1940, 389,521 peasants died in places of “kulak” resettlement. Adding these figures together would produce a total of a little more than 2.3 million, but this can in no way be taken as an exact number. First of all, there is a possible overlap between the numbers given for GULAG camp deaths and “political” executions as well as between the latter and other victims of the 1937-1938 mass purges and perhaps also other categories falling under police jurisdiction. Double-counting would deflate the 2.3 million figure. On the other hand, the 2.3 million does not include several suspected categories of death in custody. It does not include, for example, deaths among deportees during and after the war as well as among categories of exiles other than “kulaks.” Still, we have some reason to believe that the new numbers for GULAG and prison deaths, executions as well as deaths in peasant exile, are likely to bring us within a much narrower range of error than the estimates proposed by the majority of authors who have written on the subject.

Table 2. Age and Gender Structure of GULAG Population (as of January 1 of each year)

Image3

We now have some information about the demographic composition of the GULAG’s prisoners. In terms of gender, there are few surprises. As Table 2 shows, women constituted a minority of hard regime camp inmates, although their share reached almost 13 percent by 1943 and 24 percent by 1945. They accounted for no more than 11 percent of the people prosecuted by the court system until the late 1930s, then the demographic situation of the war years increased their part to more than 40 percent by 1944; and, even though this proportion diminished afterward, it did not descend below 20 percent until 1955.

As we look at Table 2, the prominence of persons between 25 and 40 years of age among labor camp inmates is not surprising. A shift can be observed between 1934 and 1940. The generation that grew up in the tumult of war, civil war and revolution and came of age in the New Economic Policy era continued to constitute a cohort more exposed to penal sanctions than the rest of society. Thus people between ages 19 and 24 in 1934 are likely to account for the large over-representation of the age group 25 to 30 in 1937 and of the 31 to 35 cohort on the eve of the war. Those in the 51 to 60 and especially 41 to 50 age ranges, however, seem to be most vulnerable to repression in the wake of crises like collectivization and the Great Purges. The presence of persons between ages 18 and 21 also becomes notable in the camps by March 1940, when they made up 9.3 percent of the inmates (their share in the 1937 population was 6.4 percerit).

In. fact, it gives one pause to reflect that 1.2 percent of strict regime camp detainees were 18 or younger in 1934 and that, by 1941, their share nearly reached the proportion of those between 16 and 18 in the country’s population. From mid-1935 to the beginning of 1940, 155,506 juveniles between the ages of 12 and 18 passed through the labor colonies. Some 68,927 of them had been convicted of a crime and 86,579 had not. The large proportion of unconvicted young detainees indicates that they were likely to be incarcerated by extra-judicial bodies, as was a high proportion of adult inmates not sentenced by courts between 1938 and 1940. Nevertheless, political reasons did not play a predominant role in the conviction of minors. The ordeal of collectivization and the ensuing famine as well as the turmoil of mass migration from countryside to cities dramatically increased the number of orphans, abandoned children, and single-parent house-holds and weakened the family as well as the social integration of some categories of youth. Juvenile delinquency became a serious concern for the authorities by the spring of 1935, when they ordered that the courts were entitled to apply “all penal sanctions” to children having reached 12 years and guilty of “theft, violence, bodily harm, mutilation, murder and attempted murder.”

Records show that 10,413 youngsters between 12 and 16 years of age were sentenced by the courts of the Russian Federation in the second half of 1935 and

the first half of 1936; 77.7 percent of them were accused of theft (as opposed to 43.8 percent of those in the 16 to 18 group) and 7.1 percent of violent crimes. At this time, when the overall proportion of custodial sentences did not exceed 44 percent in the republic, 63.5 percent of the youngest offenders (and 59.4 percent between 16 and 18) were sent to detention. In addition, there was a tendency to apply the 1935 decree to infractions it did not cover; thus, despite instructions to the contrary, 43 juveniles were sentenced for alleged misconduct in office [!] by mid-1936 and 36 youngsters under 16 were so sentenced between 1937 and 1939. The sources show, incidentally, that the procuracy suggested that people below 18 years of age should not be confined in ordinary places of detention, and there is reason to believe that it also vainly protested against a directive of the camp administration stipulating that “the stay of minors in labor colonies is not limited by the terms of court sentences.”

Table 3. Data on 10,366 Juvenile Camp Inmates, April 1, 1939

Image4

At any rate, 24,700 children and adolescents up to 16 years of age appeared in courts in 1938 and 33,000 in the course of the following year, an increase that reflects a hardening penal practice. Table 3 indicates, however, that even if juveniles could be detained for political reasons, this motive did not account for a high proportion of the youngest camp inmates, even in the wake of the Great Purges. Although these data denote a tendency to imprison juveniles almost in the same proportions as adults if they were accused of the most serious crimes, they also show the penal system’s proclivity to impose custodial sentences on youngsters more readily than on grown-ups.

Table 4 shows the national origin of the majority of labor camp inmates on January 1, 1937-1940, alongside the ethnic composition of the USSR according to the working materials of the (suppressed) 1937 and (published) 1939 censuses. In comparison with their weight in the general population, Russians, Belorussians, Turkmen, Germans, and Poles were over-represented in the camps by 1939; Germans and Poles being especially hard-hit. On the other hand, Ukrainians, Jews, Central Asians (except Turkmen) and people from the Caucasus were less represented in the GULAG system than in the population of the country; as national groups, they suffered proportionately less in the 1937-1938 terror.

Table 4. Ethnic Groups in GULAG Camps, January 1, 1937-1940

Image 5

If ethnic groups for whom camp figures are unavailable in 1937 were too weakly represented to be counted, then Table 4 accurately demonstrates the statistical impact of the terror on different nationalities. Because we know that the party/state administration was heavily staffed by Russians and that many members of the party elite and economic leadership were of Polish and German background, the changes in the ethnic composition seem to indicate a terror aimed more at the elite than at particular national groups per se. To be sure, a sizable proportion of citizens of Polish and German origin living in border areas suffered several waves of “cleansing” for their alleged unreliability. In addition, wherever they resided, they were likely to be accused of political sympathies with states with which relations were strained, especially at a time when the authorities suspected fifth columns throughout the country and ordered a clampdown on “spies and nationalists.” This circumstance must have contributed to the fact that, in early 1939, when GULAG inmates made up 0.77 percent of the country’s population, some 2.7 percent and 1.3 percent of these ethnic groups were in hard regime camps, as well as about 1.3 percent of all Koreans, 1.7 percent of all Estonians, 1.9 percent of all Finns, and 3.2 percent of all Lithuanians, compared to approximately 0.85 percent of all Belorussians, 0.84 percent of all Russians, 0.65 percent of all Ukrainians, and 0.61 percent of all Jews. The national group suffering the most in proportional terms was the Latvians, who were heavily represented in the party and state administration and of whose total census population a staggering 3.7 percent was in strict regime camps alone. The hypothesis of an increasingly anti-elite orientation of the penal policy is supported by data on the educational levels of labor camp inmates. Table 5 shows the educational background of hard regime camp inmates on January 1, 1937, alongside educational levels for the population as a whole in 1937. Even allowing for the rise in educational levels in the general population between 1937 and 1940, it seems clear that the purge hit those with higher educational levels more severely. Although less educated common folk heavily outnumbered the “intelligentsia” in the camps, those who had studied in institutions of higher or secondary education were proportionally nearly twice as numerous in the GULAG system as they were in society at large, while those with elementary (or no) education were under-represented.

Table 5. Educational Levels of the GULAG Population versus the USSR as a Whole, 1937

Image6

Moreover, in the years spanning the Great Terror, the proportion of the camp population with some education rose significantly, while that of less educated people declined. From 1934 to 1941, the segment of the camp population with higher education tripled and the proportion with secondary education doubled. Again, however, care must be used in interpreting these data, because educational levels in the population as a whole were increasing steadily during the decade of the 1930s. We lack detailed annual education data for the period and especially statistics on the share of people with college and high school instruction in the population of the late 1930s and early l940s. Thus it would be dangerous to draw firm conclusions, even though the available evidence strongly suggests that the terror intensified against the educated elite. It comprised 12.8 percent of the population of hard regime camps by 1941, compared to 6.3 percent in 1934. As Table 6 indicates, the number of detainees with higher and secondary education grew much faster than the rest of the GULAG population.

It is commonly believed that most of the prisoners of the “Gulag Archipelago” had been arrested and sentenced for political offenses falling under one of the headings of “counterrevolutionary offenses” (Article 58 in the criminal code). It is also common wisdom that many people arrested for other reasons were accused of political crimes for propaganda value. The available evidence does not bear out this view, but it does suggest considerable ambiguity in definitions of “political crimes.” Table 7 shows the breakdown of labor camp inmates for selected years, according to the offense for which they were sentenced. Although the presence of alleged counterrevolutionaries is impressive, it turns out that ostensibly non-political detainees heavily outnumbered “politicals.”

Table 6. Percentage of Increase in Detainees by Educational background in GULAG Camps

Image7

In view of the murderous campaign of 1932-1933 against pilferers of state and collective farm property. and of the fact that in 1951 the number of prisoners convicted for this offense largely outstripped that of all categories of “counterrevolutionaries,” their share seems at first glance suspiciously low in Table 7, especially in 1940. One explanation for the relatively low proportion of inmates convicted under the “Law of August 7, 1932”-which had prescribed the death penalty or ten years of hard labor for theft of state property-is an unpublished decree of January 1936 ordering the review of the cases of all inmates convicted under the terms of this Draconian law before 1935. The overwhelming majority of these people had been condemned between 1932 and 1934, and four-fifths of this cohort saw their sentences reduced by August 1936 (including 40,789 people who were immediately released). Another possible explanation is that many people benefited from a directive reorienting the drive against major offenders and from reviews of their convictions that led by the end of 1933 to modifications of 50 percent of the verdicts from the previous seventeen months. This state of affairs seems to account for the considerable confusion in the records concerning the implementation of the “Law of August 7” and for the fact that, while claiming that the number of persons sentenced under its terms was between 100,000 and 180,000, officials were reluctant to advance exact figures even as late as the spring of 1936.

Table 7. Offenses of GULAG Population (by percent as of January 1 of each year)

Image8

The category of “socially harmful and dangerous elements” and the manner it was put to use must also warn us not to accept the definitions of “counter-revolutionaries” in our sources. Article 7 of the penal code stated that “to persons having committed socially dangerous acts or representing danger through their relation(s) with the criminal milieu or through their past activities, measures of social defense of a judicial-corrective, medical or medico-pedagogical character are applied.” Nevertheless, it failed to specify penalties except to indicate in Article 35 that these persons could be subjected to internal exile, without giving the slightest hint of the sentences courts were entitled to pass. The definition of the offense and the corresponding penalty were more than vague, but this did not prevent extra-judicial bodies of the secret police from singling out “harmful” and “dangerous” people among “recidivists [and] persons associated with the criminal milieu conducting a parasitic way of life etc.” This information comes from an appeal Co the top leadership by the procurator general, who was proposing to restrict the sentencing powers of the NKVD Special Board at the beginning of 1936 but not insofar as “dangerous elements” were concerned.

Although the procurator of the USSR, Andrei Vyshinskii, valued procedural precision, his office does not appear to have objected to the launching in August 1937 of a lethal “mass operation” targeting “criminals (bandits, robbers, recidivist thieves, professional smugglers, recidivist swindlers, cattle

thieves) engaged in criminal activities and associated with the criminal milieu)”-whether or not they were actually guilty of any specific offense at the moment-and connecting these common criminals to a wide range of supposedly “anti-Soviet” and “counter-revolutionary” groups, from “kulaks” to former members of forbidden political parties, former oppositionists, and alleged terrorists. Clearly, the regime saw a political threat in the conduct, and indeed in the sheer existence, of “dangerous” persons. The secret directive of 1937 was no dead letter: the records suggest that it led to the arrest of a great number of people. some of whom were hardly more than notorious hooligans and yet were sometimes sent to the firing squad.

Some 103,513 “socially harmful and dangerous elements” were held in hard regime camps as of January 1937, and the number grew to 285,831 in early 1939, when, as Table 3 shows, they made up a record 21.7 percent of all detainees (and 56.9 percent of juvenile detainees). But the proportion (and also the number) of “dangerous” persons began to decline by January 1940 and that of “hooligans” started to rise, until the size of their contingent came close to that of the “harmful elements” by 1941, in part because of toughened legislation concerning rowdies. A total of 108,357 persons were sentenced in 1939 for “hooliganism”; in the course of the next year, 199,813 convicts fell into this category. But by 1948, the proportion of “hooligans” among camp inmates was 2.1 percent, whereas that of “dangerous elements” fell to 0.1 percent. No doubt the same offense in the 1930s could be regarded as “socially dangerous” and in the 1940s as “hooliganism.”

“Socially harmful” people may have been victims of political repression, but it would be far-fetched to presume that the unjust punishment they received was a response to conscious acts of opposition to the regime. Having observed this, we must remember that the great majority of those sentenced for “counter-revolu-tionary offenses” had never committed any act deliberately directed against the Soviet system and even continued to remain faithful to the Bolshevik cause, notwithstanding their victimization. From this point of view, the regime’s distinction between “political” and “non-political” offenders is of doubtful relevance.Unless we are prepared to accept broad Stalinist definitions of “counterrevolutionary” offenses or the equally tendentious Western categorization of all arrests during Stalin’s time (even those for crimes punishable in any society) as political, we should devise ways to separate ordinary criminality from genuine opposition to the system as well as from other reasons for which people were subjected to penal repression.

At any rate, the Appendix figures show that from 1934 to 1953, a minority of the labor camp inmates had been formallv convicted of “counterrevolutionary crimes.” Our data on sentencing policy are incomplete for the period before 1937, but they permit us to advance some estimates of orders of magnitude. Thus we can calculate that only about 11 percent of the more than 5.3 million persons sentenced by courts and extrajudicial bodies between 1933 and 1935 represented “cases of the OGPU/NKVD” of which. as we have seen, a relatively high proportion had not been considered “political.” Some 28 percent of the almost 5 million people convicted by various courts and NKVD boards in 1937-1939 were sentenced “from cases of the security police,” mostly under the pretext of “counterrevolutionary offenses.” But while the judiciary and the Special Board of the NKVD/MVD subjected nearly 31 million persons to penalties in the period 1940-1952, only 4.8 percent (though a sizable 1.5 million persons) fell under Article 58. By contrast, more than twice as many (11 percent) of all people sentenced in these years were charged with appropriating public property.

Table 8. GULAG Population according to Sentencing Authority (Percentages as of January 1)

Image9

It turns out that by far the largest group of those sentenced between 1940 and 1952 consisted of people accused of violating laws devised to strengthen labor discipline, ranging from unauthorized absence from work to dodging mobilization for work in agriculture, to failing to meet the compulsory minimum of work in the collective farm. Although the judiciary jargon called them “wartime decrees,” most of them remained in force until 1956. More than 17 million people had been convicted under their terms between 1940 and 1952 (albeit “only” 3.9 million of them were sentenced to detention), comprising half (55.3 percent) of all the period’s sentences. One may wonder if acts infringing on proprietary prerogatives and labor relations in a state that is virtually the only proprietor and practically the only employer do not bear some relation to politics. But if we leave aside this dilemma as well as the year 1936, for which our data are too fragmentary, we can conclude that, on the whole, only about 8.4 percent of the sentences of courts and extra-judicial bodies were rendered “on cases of the secret police” and for alleged political reasons between 1933 and 1953.

From 1934, when many believe the terror was mounting, to 1937-1938, the camp proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” actually declined. Table 8 shows that so did the proportion in the strict regime camp population of those who had been sent there by specific police bodies.

Even though the number of people convicted “on cases of the NKVD” more than tripled from 1934 to 1935, a careful look at the sources shows that many sentences had hardly anything to do with “political” cases. Data on the arrested “counterrevolutionaries” show a 17 percent growth due to an increase in the number of people accused of “anti-Soviet agitation” by a factor of 2.6. As for sentences in 1935, 44.6 percent of them were rendered by regional NKVD “troikas” (tribunals), which did not deal with “political” affairs. Another 43 percent were passed by regular courts, but fewer than 35,000 of the more than 118,000 people concerned had been “counterrevolutionaries.” To be sure, the quantity of “political” sentences increased, compared to the previous year. In 1936, however, the NKVD arrested the same number of “counterrevolutionaries” as in 1934, which does not seem to show steadily intensifying political repression. Similarly, the continually decreasing number of people shot in cases initiated by the secret police and the constantly diminishing share (as well as aggregate number) of “counterrevolutionaries” in hard regime camps between 1934 and 1937 casts doubt on the idea of “mounting” repression in this period.

The abolition of the OGPU, a degree of uncertainty concerning the sentencing privileges of the new NKVD, and attempts to transfer the bulk of “political” cases to the jurisdiction of military tribunals as well as to the special boards of regional courts and the Supreme Court suggest that the penal policy of more or less ordinary judicial instances, whose statistics are available, is indicative of the general trend of 1935-1936. The data are unfortunately incomplete, but we have information on at least 30,174 “counterrevolutionaries” who were sentenced by civilian and military courts in 1935, in the wake of the Kirov assassination, and on 19,080 people who were prosecuted by the same courts for supposedly political offenses in the first half of the next year. Most of this growth is attributable to the increased frequency of “anti-Soviet agitation,” which accounted for 46.8 percent of the cases before the courts of the Russian Federation in the first six months of 1935, and 71.9 percent in the corresponding period of the next year. The loose application of this charge did not always sit well in high places, and the people’s commissar of justice along with the prosecutor general warned top decision-makers of the consequences of an excessive use of the more than vague legislation on “counterrevolutionary agitation.” The prosecutor general had a heated exchange of letters with the head of the security police that raised the possibility of limiting NKVD jurisdiction in this matter.

There was a tendency to diminish rather than inflate the share of “political” cases in 1936. Even the chairman of the ominous Military Collegium of the Supreme Court noted in December 1936 that the number of “counterrevolutionaries” convicted by his bench and its subordinate courts in the first nine months of the year was 34.4 percent less than in the same period of 1935. The number of prosecutions had grown only for two categories of crimes. Characteristically enough, these were espionage and sabotage, and their frequency increased, especially in the third quarter of 1936.

It is from that time, late 1936, and not from late 1934 that the number of “counterrevolutionaries” (as well as the cohort sentenced by the NKVD) began to swell dramatically, above all in the wake of the launching of wholesale “mass operations” during the summer of 1937 that victimized “socially harmful” people alongside a wide range of purported political delinquents. The documents that ordered the mass “repression of former kulaks, criminals, and anti-Soviet elements” through decisions of newly organized “Special Troikas” of the secret police specified that the operation had to be completed within four months and even set “control figures” for the numbers of people to be shot and imprisoned. The relevant instruction foresaw 72,950 executions and 186,500 new detainees as the outcome of the drive and stipulated that the numerical targets were not to be exceeded without authorization of the Moscow headquarters of the NKVD.

Nothing indicates that the operation enjoyed a more orderly implementation than any other campaign in the Soviet system of planning. Available documentation on the course of the action is fragmentary, but it shows that after mid-February 1938, when according to the initial orders the operation should have been over for more than two months, the chief of the NKVD requested additional funding for the detention and transportation of about twice the number of people spoken about in the original directives. Moreover, the “Special Troikas” had largely “overfulfilled plans” by this time, having doomed 688,000 people before the end of 1937. Similarly, the expectations of the NKVD boss proved equally low compared to the 413,433 persons actually subjected to the jurisdiction of the local “troikas” in 1938. Local enthusiasm outstripped the expectations of the center.

In general, the leadership of the terror was not very good at predicting events. In December of 1936, NKVD chief N. I. Ezhov issued a secret order to the effect that the number of inmates at SEVVOSTLAG (Kolyma) should be 70,000 in 1937 and 1938. (This was its population as of July 1936.) But this “plan” was overfulfilled by 20,000 in the second half of 1937, and by the end of 1938 the camp housed 138,170, twice the planned level. Characteristically, as late as February 1938, the GULAG administration was at a loss to give the exact number of victims falling under its authority nationally.

Some local camp commandants found the numbers of convicts modest by the early months of 1938 and bombarded Moscow with telegrams asking for a larger “labor force,” probably because their production plans were calculated on the basis of larger contingents than the ones at their disposal. Still, hundreds of thousands of new inmates arrived after the summer of 1937 to camps unprepared to accommodate them. At the moment when the head of the secret police was applying for an increase in the NKVD budget to receive a new influx of prisoners, reports of the procurator general-who was supposed to supervise penal institutions-painted a dreary picture of the lack of elementary conditions of survival in the GULAG system as well as of starvation, epidemic disease, and a high death rate among those already there. The year 1938 saw the second highest mortality in hard regime camps before the war and probably also in prisons and labor colonies, where 36,039 deaths were recorded, compared to 8,123 in 1937 and 5,884 in 1936.

Returning to the question of plan and control over the purge, we find a letter in which the NKVD chief promised to improve the poor camp conditions, yet he reported figures for the increase in GULAG population different from the data reported by his own administration. Evidence also suggests that the NKVD and the Central Committee issued directives during the drive that were incompatible with each other. In addition, there is at least one republic on record, that of Belorussia, where vigilant local officials continued mass shootings for a time even after an order was dispatched calling for an end to the wholesale purge

Although the theoretical capacity of the prisons in Turkmenistan was put at 1,844 places, 6,796 people had been locked up in them at the beginning of 1938, and 11,538 by May; this was clearly unanticipated in Moscow. The dimensions the campaign reached in the republic explains the over-representation of Turkmen among camp inmates. Other ethnic groups also suffered-at one time, all of Ashkhabad’s 45 Greek residents were arrested as members of an “insurrectionary organization.” The NKVD chief of the republic prescribed “control figures for cases of espionage [and] sabotage” as well as specific “limits” for the number of arrests to celebrate May Day, which suggests that after a while, the operation was farmed out to regional heads of the secret police. A fife at a factory became an occasion to meet “quotas” for sabotage by arresting everybody who happened to be there and forcing them to name their “accomplices” (whose number soon exceeded one hundred persons). If nothing else worked, it was always possible to round up people having the bad luck to be at the marketplace, where a beard made one suspect of the “crime” of being a mullah and where more than 1,200 “counterrevolutionaries” were seized in a matter of five months. Mock executions and incredibly savage torture were used in Turkmenistan to wring out confessions to all sorts of “subversive acts” and “organizations.” To be sure, neither torture nor trumped-up cases was a Turkmen monopoly: the records show that both became widespread in the wake of the wholesale purge the “Special Troikas” spearheaded.

This state of affairs illustrates the problems posed by our sources on the question of “politicals.” A person arrested for his “suspicious” Polish origin or shot because of having been married to a Pole in the past was no doubt accused of being a “counterrevolutionary.” We can also only wonder how many victims shared the fate of namesakes and were sentenced to long terms or shot as alleged former members of defunct parties. How many people were like the peasant who had been condemned “merely” to ten years but whose paperwork slipped in among that of people slated for capital punishment? (He was shot with them.)

Probably, most such people figure in our data on “politicals,” even if some of the mistakenly executed were listed under the heading of their original “non-political” sentences.

Last but not least, there was the purge of the purgers: how “counterrevolutionary” were the great number of officials of the NKVD and the judiciary who were denounced for “anti-Soviet activities” after November 1938, when the Central Committee abolished the “troikas,” called off the purge, and decided that “enemies of the people and spies having made their way” into the secret police and the procuracy had been responsible for the terror of the preceding period ? Many of these “hostile elements”were sentenced as “politicals,” just as the majority of those they had cruelly mistreated, although they continued to protest their fidelity to the regime until the very end.

Figure B: “Political” Crimes as Proportion of GULAG Population, 1934-1953

Image2But whatever we think about “counterrevolutionaries,” their identified cohort constituted 34.5 percent of the camp population by 1939. This was not their largest share in the pre-war period: at the beginning of 1932, people sentenced for “political” reasons in what corresponded then to hard regime camps comprised 49 percent of the inmates. The widespread recourse to capital punishment in 1937-1938 is responsible for holding the proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” under 50 percent until 1946. The percentage then declined again, probably as the result of a renewed offensive against pilferers of public property. If we superimpose the numbers of purportedly political inmates on the oscillating population of the labor camps from year to year, we find that while the proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” fluctuated, their aggregate numbers remained remarkably constant from 1939 until Stalin’s death (Figure B). This suggests that, numerically, a cohort of “politicals” was taken into the camps at the time of the Great Terror and remained relatively constant in future years.

The time of the great purges (1936-1939), as Figure C indicates, was numerically not the period of greatest repression. even if we take into account the masses of people shot in 1937-1938 and the much less frequent recourse to capital punishment from the late 1940s. Annual numbers of detainees were greater after World War II, reaching a peak shortly before Stalin’s death. If we extract the war years from the trend, we find that the picture is one of steadily increasing repression throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Figure C: GULAG and Colony Populations, 1934-1953

Image3

Looking specifically at the hard regime camp populations (Figure C and the Appendixes), we find that in the twenty years from 1934 through 1953, the annual population increased in fourteen of the years and dropped in six. Of the six declining years, four were wartime; we know that approximately 975,000 GULAG inmates (and probably also a large number of persons from labor colonies) were released to military service. Nevertheless, the war years were not good ones for the GULAG. First, many of those released to the army were assigned to punitive or “storm” formations, which suffered the heaviest casualties. Second, at the beginning of the war, prominent political prisoners were transferred and isolated in the most remote and severe camps in the system and most “politicals” were specifically barred from release to the military. Third, of the 141,527 detainees who had been in jails and evacuated during the first months of the war from territories soon to be occupied by the enemy, 11,260 were executed. Fourth, in the first three years of the war, 10,858 inmates of the GULAG camps were shot, ostensibly for being organizers of underground camp organizations.

Finally, wartime life became harder for the remaining camp residents. More than half of all GULAG deaths in the entire 1934-1953 period occurred in 1941-1943, mostly from malnutrition. The space allotment per inmate in 1942 was only one square meter per person, and work norms were increased. Although rations were augmented in 1944 and inmates given reduced sentences for overfillng their work quotas, the calorie Content of their daily provision was still 30 percent less than in the pre-war period. Obviously, the greatest privation, hunger, and number of deaths among GULAG inmates, as for the general Soviet population, occurred during the war.

The other years of significant population decrease in the camps were 1936 and 1953-1954. In 1936, the number of persons in both the GULAG system and labor colonies declined, as did the proportion of those incarcerated for “counterrevolution” and on sentences of the NKVD. Similarly, while the aggregate numbers of detainees were generally increasing between 1934 and 1937, the rate of increase was falling. In 1953, the year that saw the deaths of both Stalin and his secret police chief L. P. Beria, more than half of the GU LAG inmates were freed.

We have fairly detailed data about the internal movement of persons-arrivals, transfers, deaths, and escapes-inside the strict regime camp network (see the Appendixes and Figure D). They confirm Solzhenitsyn’s metaphor that this was a universe in “perpetual motion.” Large numbers of persons were constantly entering and leaving the system. During the 1934-1953 period, in any given year, 20-40 percent of the inmates were released, many times more than died in the same year. Even in the terrible year of 1937, 44.4 percent of the GULAG labor camp population on January 1 was freed during the course of the year. Until 1938-1939, there were also significant numbers of escapes from the hard regime camps. In any year before 1938, more of the GULAG inmates fled the camps than died there. A total of about 45,000 fugitives were on record in the spring of 1934, a year when a record number of 83,000 detainees took flight. Between 1934 and 1953, 378,375 persons escaped from the GULAG camps. Of them, 233,823 were recaptured, and the remaining 38 percent made good their escape. The data show, however, that the number of escapes fell sharply beginning in 1938, as Stalin with Ezhov and then with Beria tightened camp regimes and security.

Figure D: GULAG Population Shifts, 1934-1953

Image4

The data also indicate that the average length of sentence increased in the last years before the war. The longer terms “counterrevolutionaries” were likely to receive must have contributed to the growth of the proportion of people serving more than five years. However, Table 9 suggests that despite a notable drop in the share of long terms meted out by the courts-the sentencing policy for inmates of hard regime camps came closer by the late 1930s to the one applied to “politicals” around mid-decade.

Even if most camp convicts were “non-political,” were only serving sentences of up to five years, and hundreds of thousands were released every year, the GULAG camps were horrible places. Work was hard, rations were barely adequate, and living conditions were harsh. The inmates were exposed to the exactions of fellow prisoners and especially to the cruelty of the guards. Behind our figures lies the suffering of millions of people.

Table 9. Length of Sentences during Stalinist Repression, 1935-1940 (by percent)

Image10

The long-awaited archival evidence on repression in the period of the GreatPurges shows that levels of arrests, political prisoners, executions, and general camp populations tend to confirm the orders of magnitude indicated by those labeled as “revisionists” and mocked by those proposing high estimates. Some suspicions about the nature of the terror cannot be sustained, others can now be confirmed. Thus inferences that the terror fell particularly hard on non-Russian nationalities are not borne out by the camp population data from the 1930s. The frequent assertion that most of the camp prisoners were “political” also seems not to be true. On the other hand, the new evidence can support the View, reached previously by statistical study and evidence of other types, that the terror was aimed at the Soviet elite. It also confirms the conclusions of authors who had studied the available sources and shown the uncertainties of legal theory and penal practice in the 1930s. In addition, it seems that much of the process was characterized by high-level confusion and by local actions in excess of central plans.

The Stalinist penal system can be profitably studied with the same sociological tools we use to analyze penal structures elsewhere. It contained large numbers of common criminals serving relatively short sentences, many of whom were released each year and replaced by newly convicted persons. It included a wide variety of sanctions, including non-custodial ones. For most of those drawn into it, it was in fact a penal system: a particularly harsh, cruel, and arbitrary one, to be sure, but not necessarily a one-way ticket to oblivion for the majority of inmates.

Yet it is also important to highlight three specific features. For the first, the use of, capital punishment among the “measures of social defense” sets Soviet penal practices apart from those of other systems, even though the number of executions shows a sharp decrease after the dreadful dimensions in 1937-1938. Second, the detention system in the second half of the 1930s (and perhaps at other times) was directed against educated members of the elite. Third, it had a clearly political purpose and was used by the regime to silence real and imagined opponents.

Our attempt to examine the repression of the Stalin period from the point of view of social history and penology is not meant to trivialize the suffering it inflicted or to imply that it was “no better or worse” than in other authoritarian states. Although repression and terror imply issues of politics and morality, above all for those who perpetrate or justify them, we believe that scholars can also study them as a question of historical precision. The availability of flew data permits us to establish more accurately the number and character of victims of the terror and to analyze the Stalinist repressive system on the basis of specific data rather than relying on the impressions and speculations of novelists and poets. We are finally in a position to begin a documented analysis of this dismal aspect of the Soviet past.

A Note on Sources

The GARF (TsGAOR) collection we used was that of the GULAG, the Main Camp Administration of the NKVD/MVD (the USSR Ministry of the Interior). This collection consists of nine inventories (opisi), the first of which, that of the Secretariat, contains the main body of accessible data on detainees. To be sure, it was not possible to scrutinize the more than 3,000 files of this opis’, so we restricted ourselves to those that promised to tell the most about camp populations.

Accurate overall estimates of numbers of victims are difficult to make because of the fragmentary and dispersed nature of record keeping. Generally speaking, we have runs of quantitative data of several types: on arrests, formal charges and accusations, sentences, and camp populations. But these “events” took place under the jurisdiction of a bewildering variety of institutions, each with its own statistical compilations and reports. These agencies included the several organizations of the secret police (NKVD special tribunals, known as troikas, special collegia, or the special conference [osoboe soveshchanie]), the procuracy, the regular police, and various types of courts and tribunals.

For example, archival data on sentences for “anti-Soviet agitation” held in different archival collections may or may not have explicitly aggregated such events by the NKVD and the civilian courts. Summary data on “political” arrests or sentences may or may not explicitly tell us what specific crimes were so defined. Aggregate data on sentences sometimes include persons who were “sentenced” (to exile or banishment from certain cities) but never formally “arrested”; when we compare sentencing and arrest data, therefore, we do not always have the information necessary to sort apples from oranges. Similarly, our task is complicated, as shown above, by the fact that many agencies sentenced people to terms in the GULAG for many different types of crimes, which were variously defined and categorized. We believe, however, that despite the lack of this information, we now have enough large chunks of data to outline the parameters and to bring the areas for which we lack data within a fairly narrow range of possibility.

Further research is needed to locate the origins of inconsistencies and possible errors, especially when differences are significant. We must note, however, that the accuracy of Soviet records on much less mobile populations does not seem to give much hope that we can ever clarify all the issues. For instance, the Department of Leading Party Cadres of the Central Committee furnished different figures for the total party membership and for its ethnic composition as of January 1, 1937, in two documents that were nevertheless compiled about the same time. Yet another number was given in published party statistics. The conditions of “perpetual movement” in the camp system created even greater difficulties than those posed by keeping track of supposedly disciplined party members who had just seen two major attempts to improve the bookkeeping practices of the party.

At times, tens of thousands of inmates were listed in the category of “under way” in hard regime camp records, although the likelihood that some of them would die before leaving jail or during the long and tortuous transportation made their departure and especially their arrival uncertain. The situation is even more complicated with labor colonies, where, at any given moment, a considerable proportion of prisoners was being sent or taken to other places of detention, where a large number of convicts served short terms, and where many people had been held pending their investigation, trial, or appeal of their sentences. The sources are fragmentary and scattered on colonies, but it seems that A. N. Dugin’s attempt (see the Appendixes) to find figures for the beginning of each year – which was checked by V. N. Zemskov – yielded rather accurate results. Even so, we are not certain that errors have not slipped in.

Moreover, we do not know at the time of this writing if camp commandants did not inflate their reports on camp populations to receive higher budgetary allocations by including people slated for transfer to other places, prisoners who were only expected to arrive, and even the dead. Conversely, they may have reported low figures in order to secure easily attainable production targets.

We made extensive use of a series of statistics that were compiled about 1949 and that followed the evolution of a great number of parameters from 1934 tip to 1948. We indicated some instances in which current periodic reports of the accounting department furnished slightly different figures from those of 1949 (see the notes to Tables 3, 4, and 6) and one case in which an NKVD document in 1936 gave data similar to but not entirely identical with those calculated after the war (note to Table 8). In these as well as in most other instances, the gaps are insignificant and do not call into question the orders of magnitude suggested by the postwar documents, whose figures are, as a rule, somewhat higher than the ones recorded in the 1930s. A notable exception concerns escapes, because a 1939 report mentioned almost twice as many fugitives for 1938 as the relevant table of 1949. Although we have no explanation for this discrepancy at this moment, we can speculate that the fact that a 1939 medical report showed lower mortality figures in hard regime camps in the years between 1934 and 1939 than the 1949 account may be because the latter also includes people who had been executed.

Another source we relied on consists of four tables concerning people arrested and sentenced “on cases of the secret police” from 1921 through the first half of 1953. A peculiarity of the document is that while enumerating sentences and arrests up to 1938, it lists fewer people arrested in 1935 and 1936 than sentenced. All the while quoting the same figure for 1935 detentions as does our source, a letter signed by the head of the NKVD also speaks of more persons against whom “proceedings [had been] instituted” than those arrested. We know that some of the victims of the “cleansing” of border zones and major urban centers of “socially alien elements” had been arrested before being bankhed to faraway localities, although most of them seem to have been exiled without arrest by decisions of the NKVD jurisdiction. We also have information in this period about defendants in affairs of “anti-Soviet” agitation who had been left free pending their trial, as well as instances of the judiciary asking the police to “resolve by administrative order” cases in which there was no legal ground for conviction, a good many of which were not necessarily initiated by the NKVD.

We cannot stress enough the fact that this is only the first exploration of a huge and complex set of sources; little more than scales, ranges, and main trends of evolution can now be established. Although the above-mentioned circumstances cannot guarantee exactitude, there are good reasons for assuming that the data are reliable on the population of strict regime camps, on orders of magnitude, and on the general orientation of penal policy. There is a remarkable consistency in the way numbers, from different sources, evolve over the period under study and a notable coherence among the figures to which different types of documents refer at particular moments.

Moreover, figures produced by researchers using other archival collections of different agencies show close similarities in scale. Documents of the People’s Commissariat of Finance discuss a custodial population whose size is not different from the one we have established. In the same way, the labor force envisioned by the economic plans of the GULAG, found in the files of the Council of People’s Commissars, does not imply figures in excess of our documentation. Last but not least, the “NKVD contingent” of the 1937 and 1939 censuses is also consistent with the data we have for detainees and exiles.

Appendix A USSR Custodial Populations, 1934-1943

Image11

Appendix B USSR Custodial Populations, 1943-1953

Image12

Note: The 1938 data for the population of colonies also includes prison inmates, who numbered 548,417 on February 10, 1938, and the 1946 population, which contains 444,500 persons sentenced to “corrective work” without detention; GARF (TsGAOR), fond 9414, opis’ 1, delo 330, listy 55; d. 1139, l. 88; d. 1259, l. 18. The figure 1950 for “politcals” includes detainees in labor colonies. Camp and colony data are unavailable for December 31, 1953 and are here replaced by numbers for April 1, 1954, when 448,344 “counterrevolutionaries” were held at these places of detention.

Sources: GARF (TsGAOR), fond 9414, opis’ 1, delo 1155, listy 2-3 (camps and “counterrevolutionaries,” 1934-47); d. 1190, l. 36; d. 1319, ll. 2-15, d. 1356, ll.2-3 (camps and “counterrevolutionaries,” 1948-53); f. 9413, op. 1, d. 11, ll. 1-10 (prisons); A. N. Dugin and A. Ia. Malygin, “Solzhenitsyn, Rybakov: Tekhnologiia Izhi,” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, no. 7, 1991, 68-70 (for colonies: calculations verified by V. N. Zemskov on the basis of GARF (TsGAOR), f. 9414, op. 1, d. 330, l. 55). See also A Note on Sources

Source

Long Live the Union of the Fraternal Slav Peoples? No! Workers of the World, Unite!

KPRF

by Aleksander Budilo

This article from Proletarskaya Gazeta is excellent in its exposure of the bourgeois nationalism of parties such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other organisations that claim to be communist in the former Soviet Union. Rather than organising the working class against ‘their own’ bourgeoisie, they support the bourgeoisie ‘against’ the U.S. and NATO. However, it is these same bourgeois leaders of the Russian Federation, from Yeltsin to Putin to Medvedev, who have made an alliance with the U.S. and NATO, as is detailed in this article.

Together with unity with their own bourgeoisie, these Russian nationalists disguised as communists take a chauvinist position towards members of oppressed nationalities within Russia, particularly towards people from the Caucasus and Central Asia. This is the other side of the coin of Russian nationalism, which identifies the Russian bourgeoisie as their friend and workers of other nations as their enemy.

In the year since the article was written, the contradictions between U.S. and Russian imperialism have become clearer. This can be seen clearly with the recent war in the Caucasus, and they are certain to become sharper as the inter-imperialist struggle sharpens on a world scale.

Overall the article is an important contribution to the understanding of opportunism and nationalism in the Russian communist movement.

George Gruenthal

To the editorial board of ‘Against the Current’ (PT) come letters from our readers, in which they express their views on the political positions taken by the bulletin, analyse the events taking place in Ukraine and the world and request us to elucidate these and other burning questions.

Thus, Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, from the city of Melitopol, Zaporozhskaya region, writes: ‘Greetings, comrades! I received from you ‘PT’ No. 6; many thanks. The articles are good, but some things are not clear. In particular, about the union of the fraternal peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. The fact is that NATO is getting close to Russia’s borders and there is a danger that Russia will be divided into pieces. In this case the union of fraternal peoples will be impossible’.

The question put by Leonid Konstantinovich is very important and, of course, is of interest not only to him. Therefore it makes sense to discuss it not only in private correspondence, but publically…

If we judge from the last boastful publications in the newspaper of the CC of the Communist Party of Ukraine ‘Communist’ and the newspaper of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers ‘Working Class’, ‘the insidious plans for NATO to advance further towards the East have already been foiled’. And this happened because of the decisive, skillful actions of the united ‘white-blue [pro-Russian nationalist] and red’ forces.

As they say, judge for yourself. First, there was the brilliant joint victory of the pro-Russian patriots and Communists against the landing of the aggressor in Feodosia [town in the Crimea that was the scene of a demonstration against the unloading of a NATO cargo ship in May of 2006 – translator’s note], thanks to which the uninvited guests were forced to return home in disgrace.

Second, an attempt of the so-called Pomaranchevites (i.e., orange – ed.) forces to create an independent pro-Western, pro-NATO coalition in the Supreme Council [Ukrainian Parliament] suffered a complete failure. Neither protégé [of the Orange forces – translator’s note] Yushchenko, nor Yulia Tymoshenko, but Victor Yanukovich became Prime Minister as a result.

A defeat for the West and a victory for Russia in the fight for Ukraine – this is a fact, they claim, which does not require proof.

This is what practically all ‘bull-headed’ people think today – members of the KPU [Communist Party of Ukraine], the white-blue, members of the Union of Soviet Officers, the orthodox MP (Moscow Patriarchate – ed.) and even the majority of the Pomaranchevites. Nevertheless, there is nothing more naive, not to say foolish, than this assertion.

In reality these and many other facts tell us something completely different. The fact is that the strategic partner of the USA, the West and NATO on the territory of the CIS [Confederation of Independent States] is precisely the Russian Federation, not Ukraine or any other state. …

Incapable of comprehending the situation as a whole, the ‘Communist’ philistine today rejoices. Why! Ukraine is slipping away from the predatory paws of the West and NATO!

However, in reality the West is simply playing the game on a large scale. Its position consists of the following: let Russia control Ukraine and other countries of the CIS, and we will control Russia. That is the whole story.

For bourgeois Ukraine there is no alternative to integration into the economic, political and military structures of the West, since Russia itself is intensively moving in the same direction. The question is as follows: should it be integrated independently or under Russian ‘patronage’? It is already clear today that the West can fully accommodate not only the first, but also the second possibility.

Here is the evidence for this, in particular:

1. The calm, one could even say, benevolent reaction to the increase by the Russian Federation in the price of gas for the Ukrainian consumer. The absence of real large-scale material aid to Yushchenko’s team in the solution of economic problems inside the country in order to make the idea of an accelerated independent integration of Ukraine into the economic, political and military structures of the West attractive to the majority of its population, in particular in the industrial southeast.

2. The statements of Western leaders that they are ready to collaborate with any coalition, with any government, which will be created with a majority in the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

3. The leaders of the G-8 countries achieved complete agreement, without confrontation, in St. Petersburg regarding the solution of the most important problems of world policy: Iran, Iraq, North Korea. Recognition of the Russian Federation as a democratic country by Putin’s partners in the G-8. Absence by members of the G-8 of serious claims on Russia in regard to its relations with Georgia, Ukraine, Chechnya and so on.

The assertion that the West, the USA and NATO are supposedly interested in the disintegration and splitting up of the Russian Federation is unfounded for the following reasons.

First, Russia today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. At this time the Russian Federation does not represent a threat to the USA, the West or NATO, neither in the political, economic or military sense. After the liquidation of the Warsaw Pact, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance [COMECON], the splitting up of the Soviet Union and the so-called socialist camp, the Russian Federation proved to be a second-rate imperialist power, which concentrated on the solution of the numerous internal problems of the CIS.

Second, the capitalist West and capitalist Russia have much more in common (at the present time – ed.) than that which separates and contradicts their interests. The Russian Federation is one of the main suppliers to the West of sources of energy (gas and oil), ferrous and nonferrous metals, chemical products, wood and other such items. The splitting up of Russia, in particular the separation of western and eastern Siberia from the European part of the country, would inevitably put the stability of supply of these items of strategic importance for Western production in danger.

At the recent summit of Russia and the European Union in Sochi, we read in the newspaper ‘Communist’ of No. 47 dated June 14, that Vladimir Putin stated that Russia ‘was, is and will be’ the reliable supplier of sources of energy to Europe. He also proposed to the European companies that he would grant access to the Russian gas-pipeline monopoly under condition that reciprocal steps by the European countries for the admission of Russian companies to the European energy infrastructure will follow. …

Third, today the Russian Federation is a huge market for the sale of commodities by Western Europe and the USA. Today Russia supplies the West with basic raw material and imports finished products. In this sense a united and stable Russia is one of the important conditions for the stable development of Western industry. …

The fact that … the integration processes between the West and Russia are developing not only in the economic, but also in the political and even the military sphere, is witnessed by the inclusion of Russia in the club of powers which today determine the world order (G-8). Beginning in 1991, the Russian Federation has been intensively developing its relations with NATO. Here are the basic steps in this process:

1991 – Russia joins the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.
1994 – Russia joins the programme ‘Partnership for Peace’.
1996 – A Russian peacekeeping contingent is deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (together with NATO – ed.).
1997 – The Founding Act is signed in Paris and the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) is created.
1998 – The Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO is opened.
2001 – The NATO Information Bureau is opened in Moscow.
2002 – NATO opens its Military Liaison Mission in Moscow. The Rome Declaration is signed and the NATO-Russia Council (of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs) (NRC) is created.
2003 – The NATO-Russia Council meets for the first time in Moscow. …

The struggle (so-called – ed.) of the left parties in Ukraine (KPU, PSPU [Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine], SPU [Socialist Party of Ukraine]) against NATO and for the notorious union of fraternal Slav peoples in reality is only one of the forms of struggle of big capital for its own interests in the southeast of Ukraine, closely related to the transnational corporations of the Russian Federation. This found its political expression in the alliance of the KPU and SPU with the Party of the Regions of Yanukovich and in the struggle of the Regions with the Pomaranchevites for control of parliament and the cabinet of ministers. As far as the entry of ‘Our Ukraine’ into the parliamentary majority is concerned, it will not weaken but only strengthen the positions of the Regions in the Supreme Council. The Party of Regions will be able to carry out those decisions, against which the KPUniks (KPU and their supporters – ed.) will come out, with the aid of the faction ‘Our Ukraine’, and unacceptably for ‘Ours’ (‘Our Ukraine’ – ed.) the laws and decrees of the Regions will go through with the aid of the factions of Simonenko and Moroz.

Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, as well as many other members of the KPU, KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation], PSPU, apparently is still feeding hopes for the revival of the USSR and considers the union of Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia as a necessary step on this path. But in reality, the integration of the former republics of the USSR around Russia on a capitalist basis leads to the formation of new and the strengthening of old imperialist unions and alliances; if it is drawing us nearer to something in the long term, it is not to the recreation of the USSR, but to a new world struggle of imperialists.

The bourgeoisie understands well: for the Soviet Union to be revived, as the members of the KPU, KPRF, PSPU and the ranks of other such parties continue to dream – this is as easy as writing on the water with a fork. But the bloc of ‘left’ parties with the parties of the big bourgeoisie of Yanukovich and ‘Our Ukraine’ is already a reality. People like Simonenko and Moroz are crawling out of their skin to prove that they are using the ‘naïve’ bourgeois in their own interests and in the interests of the workers of Ukraine. But all those who think more or less sensibly understand that today it is precisely the big bourgeoisie that is successfully using ‘those who reject narrow party interests’, the ‘constructive ones’, ‘those who think in the interests of the state’, the KPUniks, SPUniks (and, thus, the ones elected by the workers) to solve their class problems. (This once again clearly confirms the class hypocrisy of the revisionists, who in the concrete situation are even formally ready to rise to the side of the bourgeois class – ed.).

Taking into account the logic of the development of the inter-imperialist contradictions, the 180 degree turn in the ideological-political orientation of ‘our’ Ukrainian ‘communist-patriots’ is completely realistic. Today, for example, they come out as ardent champions of Christian Orthodox values, as anti-NATO and anti-Western, but tomorrow they will even more ardently defend the general (Christian) values of the West and Russia in the face of the general threat of the “anti-Christ” from the East. As far as bourgeois Russia is concerned, the main object of nationalist persecution and terror here have already long ago been ‘blacks, coloureds, slant-eyed people’.

– Against whom do the skinheads, the activists of the DPNI (‘Movement Against Illegal Immigration’) and simply ‘patriotic’ citizens turn their anger? On the Americans, Germans, French or English…?

No!

On the Tadzhiks, Africans, Chinese, people of Caucasian nationalities, Jews and so on.

In relation to the former our common man sees himself as a second class person, while in relation to the latter he sees himself as a representative of the superior, WHITE race.

On November 4, 2005 in Moscow the so-called ‘Russian march’ took place organised by the DPNI (with the participation of many members of the KPRF) under the slogans: ‘Russia for the Russians’ and ‘Moscow for the Muscovites’.

(It is remarkable that at approximately the same time the administration of the president of the USA unleashed an active fight in the United States against undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom come from the countries of Latin America. But that was not the end of it. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans came out into the streets of their cities with protest signs. Bush, an ‘activist of the DPNI’ (in essence – ed.) received a worthy rebuff from the popular masses.

In the opinion of the organisers of the ‘Russian march’, the main social contradiction of modern Russian society is the contradiction between the native residents and ‘aliens’, between foreigners and ethnic Russians. They say, if we remove the ‘strangers’ – all the ‘Khachey’ and ‘Churok’ [pejorative terms for people from the Caucasus and Central Asia respectively – translator’s note], then life, you see, will be alright.

A member of the KPRF, Peter Miloserdov, participated in the march. Here is what this so-called ‘Communist’ wrote about this event in his article “Why I took part in the “Russian march”?’:

‘I, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, took part in the “Russian march”, organized in November in Moscow by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. And, I must state, I do not feel sorry about that for a minute. In the columns of the march, which went from Chistiye Prudy to Kitai Gorod, I met several thousand ordinary Muscovites, who wished to leave our rulers with one simple thought: we are just not “Russian citizens”, but ethnic Russians…. We Communists do not have a right to ignore this fact. But this means that before us now stands the complex, but solvable task, written down, by the way, in the programme of the KPRF. Here are the words: ‘The Communist Party of the Russian Federation sees its task as uniting the social-class and national liberation movements into a united mass movement of resistance, giving it a conscious and focused character’. We Communists are leading the social-class struggle … But why does this prevent us in practice from combining it with national liberation? (That is, in practice, this ‘Communist’ and ‘patriot’ calls upon the oppressed masses of Russia – in union with the local imperialists – to the national liberation struggle against our ‘alien’ class brothers, who are already completely disenfranchised in Russia and are incredibly suppressed by the Russian (including ethnic Russian) predator-capitalists, and who do the hardest and dirtiest work for such ‘Russians’ and ‘Muscovites’ for pennies – ed.).’

The only answer, which the author (i.e., Peter Miloserdov – ed.) sees so far – is ‘… our respect for the sacred cow of Soviet internationalism… let us say honestly: international peace cannot be built on to the backs of one people. Yes, at the table none of us is superfluous. But each one who is seated has his own place’.

What does this mean?

Do not be confused. This is the ‘normal’ ideology of national-socialism, i.e., the ideology of simple Russian fascism.

Do you think that Peter Miloserdov has been expelled from his party for this article? Not at all! Today he is a member of CC of the Union of Communist Youth and the assistant to the Deputy of the State Duma Ivan Melnikov – the deputy chairman of the CC of the KPRF of G. Zyuganov.

In this we have the whole essence of social chauvinism as a form of opportunism: the main enemy of the workers is not the bourgeoisie, but foreigners, even those immigrants from the former republics of the USSR. But if the enemy happens to be the bourgeoisie, then it is not our own local bourgeoisie, but the foreign bourgeoisie.

Why do these ‘patriots’ of ours frighten the proletariat with American imperialism, with foreigners, with a world Jewish-Masonic conspiracy? In order to push them into the embrace of their own bourgeoisie, their own imperialists!

Why do they create anti-crisis coalitions together with the bourgeoisie? In order to get their bourgeois state out of the crisis, to prop up ‘our’ weak oligarchs at a difficult moment in their fight with the American imperialist sharks. Here, they say, after we lead them, our family, out of crisis, then we will begin the fight for socialism. But now is not the time! One must understand this!

Lenin wrote: ‘Opportunism and social-chauvinism have the same ideological-political content: collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution’ (Socialism and War).

Here is this so-called ‘Bolshevism’ – to carry out any task for the local bourgeoisie when different kinds of politico-economic problems arise. Moreover, so far the direct threat of full-scale imperialist war is still absent. However, that will take place if the imperialists bring matters to a second edition of 1914? Then what?

You remember how a gigantic wave of chauvinism rose and shook Europe, what a deafening collapse the Second International and the majority of its leaders suffered under its pressure, including such authoritative leaders as Kautsky and Plekhanov? But indeed these were Marxists, in comparison to whom our Zyuganovs, Simonenkos, Miloserdovs, Bondarchuks, Belevskys, Yakushevs and the like do not hold a candle. Only the Leninist-Bolsheviks could withstand it at that time …

How did the leaders of European social-democracy defend their treachery at that time? Very logically, convincingly and most importantly through ‘patriotism’. Let us look at the testimony of the worker… A.G. Shlyapnikov. ‘German opportunists, from Sheidemann to Kautsky, fought the “Russian autocracy”, the French “protected the republic”, the English “freed Belgium”, but the Russians “did not prevent” the Generals-Liberators from conducting the war in the name of “freedom of Western-style democracy”. In this way they solved the problem of distracting the thoughts and actions of democracy and the working class from their own situation inside the country, from their fight for their own class aims’ (A.G. Shlyapnikov ‘On the eve of 1917. Seventeenth year’…).

What can we conclude from all this? In the epoch of imperialism to divide peoples into fraternal and non-fraternal ones means, to retreat from clear Marxist class positions to the position of social-chauvinism, to the position of national-socialism; it means, to ignore the contemporary division of the peoples into bourgeoisie and proletariat; it means to preach the idea of collaboration with our own (in our case – Slavic or Russian) bourgeoisie.

The slogan of real Marxists, real Communists, always was, is and will be: not ‘Brother Slavs (Arabs, Jews and so on), Unite!’ but ‘Workers of all peoples and countries, Unite!’ Any retreat from this slogan will inevitably, sooner or later, turn into treachery to proletarian internationalism and communism.

Very well, they will answer us, this is all understandable. But what about the slogan of the revival of the Soviet Union, which our ‘Soviet patriots’ defend today?

The slogan of the revival of the USSR is both utopian and reactionary. It is utopian because those historically concrete conditions which led to the formation of the world’s first proletarian state have forever, permanently, receded into the past. It is reactionary because the ‘Soviet patriots’ see the ideal, that is, the ‘Golden Age’ of socialism, in the past but not in the future and this still determined by the specific, historically limited form of socialism … (together with the invariability of the basic tenets of scientific socialism there is a need to consider present historical conditions. For example, in this historical stage, as a result of the strengthening rule of finance capital, there is taking place the transfer of many industrial enterprises from the metropolises to the former colonial countries, which contributes to the rapid growth in the numbers of the proletariat in these countries and to the weakening of the proletarian forces in the metropolises. Consequently, this historical peculiarity will exert its influence on the state and development of the class struggle both in these former colonial countries and in the metropolises. In this sense imperialist Russia is not an exception – ed.).

The shock waves of the revolution, which began with the February revolution of 1917 in Russia, were felt throughout the entire world. Thanks to the Leninist Bolshevik Party the revolution of October 1917 led to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. Thanks to the social-chauvinists, the social-patriots of the Second International and, first of all, to the German social-democrats, the bourgeoisie succeeded in drowning in blood the proletarian revolution in Germany in 1918-1919, and also in Austria and Hungary, and thus putting an end to the revolutionary wave in Western Europe.

The victory of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the defeat of the revolution in Germany in November 1918 were the main conditions that determined the establishment and further development of the USSR for years and decades afterwards. ..

The victory of the right wing of German social-democracy, of the social-chauvinists of Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske over its revolutionary wing (Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were brutally killed by social-patriots) in the end led to the Nazis coming to power (NSDAP – the National-Socialist Workers Party of Hitler, was formed in 1919). As a result Western Europe instead of becoming red became brown, and the Soviet Union found in Germany – one of the most industrially developed countries at that period – its sworn (class – ed.) enemy.

A feature of our epoch, the epoch of imperialism, is that it is the epoch of the fight between imperialist powers for world supremacy… The growing over from competition to wars on a world scale means that the productive forces have found the framework of the traditional national bourgeois state too narrow, that the productive forces have reached a world, global scale, but production relations still have a private, national character

The threat of a new world war… to which capitalist society is rushing with irresistible force as a result of the development of its own (inter-imperialist – ed.) … contradictions, will inevitably revolutionise the proletariat of Europe, America, Russia, China and other countries, on which the world order depends today.With one condition, of course, that the proletariat succeeds in time to free itself from the Siren song of the ‘patriots’, nationalists, great-power chauvinists, to create their own class organisations, which stand firmly on the positions of the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. …

August 8, 2006
Alexander Budilo
Kiev, Ukraine

Abbreviated for printing

Actually, at the present time Russia is a weaker imperialist power than, say, the USA or the imperialist countries of the West. Therefore the Russian imperialists are compelled, from time to time, to take into account their own situation in the inter-imperialist relations, in the competitive struggle with their stronger rivals. In particular, this circumstance is precisely the basis of reasoning of the author of this article.

However, no imperialist will agree to be eternally dependent on a stronger competitor. Every imperialist will attempt to push his rival away in the competitive struggle, to strengthen his own positions, to exact profit from his rival’s account and to seize more advantageous positions in the circle of imperialist powers. In this respect the Russian imperialists are no exception.

This is confirmed by many obvious examples – the fight of Russia for spheres of influence in Iran and Venezuela, the strengthening of relations as allies with the Chinese social-imperialists and the German imperialists, the persistent struggle for markets for the sale of Russian armaments to the countries of Latin America and on the African continent and so forth.

Proletarskaya Gazeta
No. 28, Leningrad
November, 2007

Translated from the Russian by Rafael Martinez and George Gruenthal

Source

Michael Parenti on “Pure Socialism”

MP 2009 portrait BW

“[R]eal socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this ‘pure socialism’ view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.”

– Michael Parenti, “Blackshirts and Reds”

On Jaime Hurtado

Jamie Hurtado

Jaime Hurtado was the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) candidate for President in the 80′s and 90′s. The Marxist–Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE) was recognized by the Party of Labor of Albania as a fraternal party and Hurtado and others visited the country during the socialist period. He was assassinated during the 1999 election. It is alleged government agents were involved.

Hurtado is still upheld as a revolutionary figure in Ecuador today. The PCMLE and MPD are currently among the largest Marxist-Leninist organizations in the world. Unlike the revisionist parties in Ecuador, the MPD and PCMLE are firmly against the social-democratic Correa government and its pseudo-leftist rhetoric.

Friedrich Engels on Scientific Socialism

blog_507_1_engels-crop

“But the old idealist conception of history, which was not yet dislodged, knew nothing of class struggles based upon economic interests, knew nothing of economic interests; production and all economic relations appeared in it only as incidental, subordinate elements in the ‘history of civilization.’

The new facts made imperative a new examination of all past history. Then it was seen that all past history, with the exception of its primitive stages, was the history of class struggles; that these warring classes of society are always the products of the modes of production and of exchange — in a word, of the economic conditions of their time; that the economic structure of society always furnishes the real basis, starting from which we can alone work out the ultimate explanation of the whole superstructure of juridical and political institutions as well as of the religious, philosophical, and other ideas of a given historical period. Hegel has freed history from metaphysics — he made it dialectic; but his conception of history was essentially idealistic. But now idealism was driven from its last refuge, the philosophy of history; now a materialistic treatment of history was propounded, and a method found of explaining man’s ‘knowing’ by his ‘being,’ instead of, as heretofore, his ‘being’ by his ‘knowing.’

From that time forward, Socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict. But the Socialism of earlier days was as incompatible with this materialist conception as the conception of Nature of the French materialists was with dialectics and modern natural science. The Socialism of earlier days certainly criticized the existing capitalistic mode of production and its consequences. But it could not explain them, and, therefore, could not get the mastery of them. It could only simply reject them as bad. The more strongly this earlier Socialism denounced the exploitations of the working-class, inevitable under Capitalism, the less able was it clearly to show in what this exploitation consisted and how it arose. but for this it was necessary —  

to present the capitalistic mode of production in its historical connection and its inevitableness during a particular historical period, and therefore, also, to present its inevitable downfall; and

to lay bare its essential character, which was still a secret. This was done by the discovery of surplus-value.

It was shown that the appropriation of unpaid labor is the basis of the capitalist mode of production and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it; that even if the capitalist buys the labor power of his laborer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for; and that in the ultimate analysis, this surplus-value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. The genesis of capitalist production and the production of capital were both explained.

These two great discoveries, the materialistic conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries, Socialism became a science.”

 – Friedrich Engels, “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”

Bill Bland: The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939

MolotovRibbentropStalin

by Bill Bland

Introduction

One of the many stories which circulate about Stalin is that, while the Soviet government was negotiating for a collective security pact with Britain and France directed against German aggressive expansion, he initiated the signing of a pact with Germany which precipitated the Second World War.

Of course, not everything that happened in the Soviet Union at this time was done with the approval of Stalin. In the case of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, however, we have the testimony of Stalin’s closest collaborator, Vyacheslav Molotov, that:

“Comrade Stalin . . suggested the possibility of different, unhostile and good neighbourly relations between Germany and the USSR. . ..
The conclusion of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact . . . shows that Comrade Stalin’s historical foresight has been brilliantly confirmed”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech at 4th (Special) Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 31 August 1939, in: ‘Soviet Peace Policy’; London; 1941; p. 16).

The charge that this was a serious mistake on Stalin’s part must, therefore, be examined seriously.

The Reorientation of Soviet Foreign Policy

In his notorious book ‘My Struggle’, written in mid-1920s, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler expressed frankly the foreign policy the Nazis intended to follow:

“We National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. . . . We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze towards the land in the East. .
If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia”.

(A. Hitler: ‘Mein Kampf’; London; 1984; p. 598, 604).

Thus, the coming to power of the Nazi government in Germany in January 1933 heralded a situation in Europe which clearly presented great danger to the Soviet Union — and not, of course, to the Soviet Union alone.

The Marxist-Leninists in the leadership of the Soviet Union, concerned to defend the socialist state, responded to this new, more dangerous situation by reorientating Soviet foreign policy, by adopting a policy of striving for collective security with other states which had, objectively, an interest in maintaining the status quo in the international situation.

The Objective Basis of Collective Security

The objective basis of the Soviet policy of collective security was that the imperialist Powers of the world could be divided into two groups.

One group — Germany, Italy and Japan had a relatively high productive power and relatively restricted markets and spheres of influence. As a result, these Powers had an urgent need to change the world to their advantage; they were relatively aggressive Powers.

Another group of imperialist Powers — Britain, France and the United States — had relatively large markets and spheres of influence and thus had objectively more need to keep the world as it was than to see it changed; they were relatively non-aggressive Powers.

Stalin, who argued that the Second World War had already begun, summed up this position to the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939:

“The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressor states, primarily, England, France and the USA. .
Thus we are witnessing an open re-division of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states.”

(J. V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 14).

As a socialist state, a working people’s state, the Soviet Union had the strongest interest of any state in the preservation of peace.

The Soviet government’s policy in the 1930s, therefore, was to strive to form a collective security alliance with the European non-aggressive imperialist states, Britain and France — a collective security alliance strong enough either to deter the aggressive imperialist states from launching war or to secure their speedy defeat.

The Soviet Government summed up this post-1933 foreign policy in 1948:

“Throughout the whole pre-war period, the Soviet delegation upheld the principle of collective security in the League of Nations”.

(‘Falsifiers of History: Historical Information’; London; 1948; p 15).

Appeasement 

Although, as we have seen, Stalin maintained that the British and French imperialists had, objectively, an interest in joining the Soviet Union in such a collective security alliance, the governments of Britain and France, led respectively by Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, did not recognise this objective fact because of their detestation of socialism and the Soviet Union and their wish to see it destroyed.

As Stalin told the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939:

“England, France and the USA . . . draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.

Thus we are now witnessing an open redivision of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain amount of connivance. .

How is it that the non-aggressive countries . . . have so easily, and without any resistance, abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?

Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the non-aggressive states? Of course not! Combined, the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and militarily. . .

The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries, particularly England and France, have rejected a policy of collective security, of collective resistance to the aggressors, and have taken up a position of ‘non-intervention’……

The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder Germany, say, . . . from embroiling herself in a war with the Soviet Union. .
One might think that the districts of Czechoslovakia were yielded to Germany as the price of an undertaking to launch war on the Soviet Union”.

(J. V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 14-15, 16).

British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax is on record as telling Hitler in November 1937 that

“he and other members of the British Government were well aware that the Fuehrer had attained a great deal. . . . Having destroyed Communism in his country, he had barred the road of the latter to Western Europe and Germany was therefore entitled to be regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism. .

When the ground has been prepared for an Anglo-German rapprochement, the four great West European Powers must jointly set up the foundation of lasting peace in Europe”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 1; London; 1954; p. 55).

Nevertheless, the Soviet Marxist-Leninists understood that this policy of ‘appeasement’ ran, objectively, counter to the interests of the British and French imperialists and counter to the interests of the British working people They therefore calculated that, if the Soviet government persisted in its efforts to form a collective security alliance with Britain and France, sooner or later the appeasers in Britain, which dominated France,. would be forced out of office by the more far-seeing representatives of British imperialism (such as Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden) in cooperation with the British working people.

(This, of course, actually occurred in 1940, but only after war had broken out in Europe).

The Anglo-French-Soviet Negotiations

On 31 March 1939, without consulting the Soviet Union, the British government gave a unilateral guarantee to defend Poland against aggression.

The leader of the liberal Party, David Lloyd George, told the House of Commons:

“I cannot understand why, before committing ourselves to this tremendous enterprise, we did not secure beforehand the adhesion of Russia. . . . If Russia has not been brought into this matter because of certain feelings that Poles have that they do not want the Russians there, . . . unless the Poles are prepared to accept the one condition with which we can help them, the responsibility must be theirs”.

(Parliamentary Debates. 5th Series, House of Commons, Volume 35; London; 1939; Col. 2,510).

The Anglo-French guarantee stimulated public pressure on the appeaser governments to at least make gestures in the direction of collective security.

So, on 15 April 1939 the British government made an approach to the Soviet government suggesting that it might like to issue a public declaration offering military assistance to any state bordering the Soviet Union which was subject to aggression if that state desired it.

Two days later, on 17 April the Soviet government replied that it would not consider a unilateral guarantee, which would put the Soviet Union in a position of inequality with the other Powers concerned. It proposed:

Firstly, a trilateral mutual assistance treaty by Britain, France and the Soviet Union against aggression;

Secondly, the extension of guarantees to the Baltic States (Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania), on the grounds that failure to guarantee these states was an open invitation to Germany to expand eastwards through invasion of these states;

Thirdly, that the treaty must not be vague, but must detail the extent and forms of the military assistance to be rendered by the signatory Powers.

On 27 May the British and French governments replied to the Soviet proposals with the draft of a proposed tripartite pact. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain commented on the British draft in a letter to his sister at this time:

“In substance it gives the Russians what they want, but in form and presentation it avoids the idea of an alliance and substitutes declaration of intention. It is really a most ingenious idea”.

(Neville Chamberlain Archives, University of Birmingham, 11/1/1101).

Vyacheslav Molotov, who had just taken over the post of People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs from Maksim Litvinov, rejected the draft on the grounds that it proposed in the event of hostilities not immediate mutual assistance, but merely consultation through the League of Nations.

On 2 June the Soviet government submitted to Britain and France a counter-draft making these joints.

The British and French governments responded by saying that Finland, Estonia and Latvia refused to be guaranteed.

The Soviet government continued to insist that a military convention be signed at the same time as the political treaty, in order that there might be no possibility of any hedging about the application of the latter. On 17 July Molotov stated that there was no point in continuing discussions on the political treaty until the military convention had been concluded.

On 23 July the British and French governments finally agreed to begin military discussions before the political treaty of alliance had been finalised, and a British naval officer with the quadruple-barreled name of Admiral Reginald Plunkett-Ernie-Erle-Drax was appointed to head the British delegation. No one, apparently, had informed the British government that the aeroplane had been invented, and the delegation left Tilbury by a slow boat to Leningrad, from where they proceeded by train to Moscow. When the delegation finally arrived in Moscow on 11 August, the Soviet side discovered that it had no powers to negotiate, only to ‘hold talks’. Furthermore, the British delegation was officially instructed to:

“Go very slowly with the conversations”;

(‘Documents on British Foreign Policy;’, 3rd Series, Volume 6; London; 1953; Appendix 5; p. 763).

Nevertheless, the military talks began in Moscow on 12 August.

On 15 August the leader of the Soviet delegation, People’s Commissar for Defence  Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, told the delegates that unless Soviet troops were permitted to enter Polish territory it was physically impossible for the Soviet Union to assist Poland and it would be useless to continue discussions.

This point was never resolved before the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations were negotiations were adjourned indefinitely on 21 August — after the Soviet government had decided to sign the non-aggression pact with Germany.

Warning Shots from Moscow

At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I think it is fair to say ‘that no diplomats are more expert in hypocritical double-dealing than British diplomats.

Nevertheless, the Soviet leaders were no fools and, as the negotiations for an Anglo-French-Soviet mutual security pact dragged on month after month, a number of warning shots were fired from Moscow.

On 11 March 1939 Joseph Davies, the former US Ambassador in Moscow, now posted to Brussels, wrote in his diary about Stalin’s speech to the 18th Congress of the CPSU a few days before:

“It is a most significant statement. It bears the earmarks of a definite warning to the British and French governments that the Soviets are getting tired of ‘non-realistic’ opposition to the aggressors. . .
It certainly is the most significant danger signal that I have yet seen”.

(J. E. Davies: ‘Mission to Moscow’; London; 1942; p. 279-80).

Then, on 3 May 1939 the resignation was announced of Maksim Litvinov as Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and his replacement by a close colleague of Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov. Although the Soviet government denied that this signified any change in Soviet foreign policy, it was significant that Litvinov’s name was particularly associated with collective security and he was known to be personally sympathetic to the West.

On 29 June the leading Soviet Marxist-Leninist Andrei Zhdanov published an article in ‘Pravda’ which, most unusually, revealed that there were differences in the leadership of the CPSU on whether the British and French governments were sincere in saying that they wished for a genuine treaty of mutual assistance:

“the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations on the conclusion of an effective pact of mutual assistance against aggression have reached a deadlock. . . .
I permit myself to express my personal opinion in this matter, although my friends do not share it. They still think that when beginning the negotiations with the USSR, the English and French Governments had serious intentions of creating a powerful barrier against aggression in Europe. I believe, and shall try to prove it by facts, that the English and French Governments have no wish for a treaty . . . to which a self-respecting State can agree. .

The Soviet Government took 16 days in preparing answers to the various English projects and proposals, while the remaining 59 days have been consumed by delays and procrastinations on the part of the English and French. 

Not long ago . . . the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beck, declared unequivocally that Poland neither demanded nor requested from the USSR anything in the sense of granting her any guarantee whatever…..However, this does not prevent England and France from demanding from the USSR guarantees . . . for Poland. . .

It seems to me that the English and French desire not a real treaty accepable to the USSR, but only talks about a treaty in order to speculate before the public opinion in their countries on the allegedly unyielding attitude of the USSR, and thus make easier for themselves the road to a deal with the aggressors.
The next few days must show whether this is so or not.”

(A. Zhdanov: Article in ‘Pravda’, 29 June 1939, in: J. Degras (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’; London; 1953; p. 352, 353, 354).

A final warning shot was fired on 22 July, when it was officially announced that Soviet-German trade negotiations were taking place in Berlin.

The Soviet-German Negotiations

At the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939, Stalin described the basis of Soviet foreign policy as follows:

“We stand for peace and the strengthening of business relations with all countries. That is our position, and we shall adhere to this position as long as countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union and as long as they make no attempt to trespass on the interests of our country”.

(J. V. Stalin: Report on the Work of the Central Committee to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (b). in : ‘The Land of Socialism Today and Tomorrow’; Moscow; 1939; p. 18).

On 17 April 1939, the Soviet Ambassador in Berlin, Aleksei Merekalov, had a conversation with the German State Secretary, Baron Ernst von Wiezsaecker, who asked him whether there was any prospect of the normalisation of relations between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Ambassador’s reply was in line with Soviet foreign policy:

“There exists for Russia no reason why she should not live with us on a normal footing. And from normal, the relations might become better and better”.

(‘Nazi-Soviet Relations: 1939-1941′, Doc. 1; Washington; 1948; p. 2).

On 29 July the German Foreign Office instructed the German Ambassador in the Soviet Union, Count Fritz von der Schulenburg, to tell Molotov:

“We would be prepared . . . to safeguard all Soviet interests and to come to an understanding with the Government in Moscow. . . . The idea could be advanced of so adjusting our attitude to the Baltic States as to respect vital Soviet interests in the Baltic Sea”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 6; London; 1956; p. 1,016).

On 14 August the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joachim von Ribbentropp, cabled Schulenburg, instructing him to call on the Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, and read him a communication:

“There is no question between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea which cannot be settled to the complete satisfaction of both countries. . . . The leadership of both countries, therefore, should . . . take action. . .

As we have been informed, the Soviet Government also feel the desire for a clarification of German-Russian relations. . . . I am prepared to make a short visit to Moscow in order, in the name of the Fuehrer, to set forth the Fuehrer ‘s views to M. Stalin. In my view, only through such a direct discussion can a change be brought about, and it should not be impossible thereby to lay the foundations for a final settlement of German-Russian relations.”

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 7; London; 1956; p. 63).

Schulenburg saw Molotov on 16 August and, as instructed, read to him Ribbentropp’s message. He reported to Berlin the same night that Molotov had heard

“With great interest the information I had been instructed to convey. . . ..

He was interested in the question of how the German Government were disposed towards the idea of concluding a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . ‘; op. cit., Volume 7; p. 77).

Ribbentropp replied the same day, directing Schulenburg to see Molotov again and inform him that:

“Germany is prepared to conclude a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. . . . Further, Germany is ready to guarantee the Baltic States jointly with the Soviet Union. . . .

I am prepared to come by aeroplane to Moscow at any time after Friday, August 18, to deal, on the basis of full powers from the Fuehrer, with the entire complex of German-Russian relations and, if the occasion arises, to sign the appropriate treaties”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . .’; op. cit. Volume 7; p. 84).

On 17 August Molotov handed Schulenburg the Soviet government’s written reply. The Note began by recalling Germany’s policy of hostility to the Soviet Union in the past, and welcoming the prospect of an improvement in German-Soviet relations. It proposed a number of steps in this direction, beginning with a trade agreement and proceeding ‘shortly thereafter’ to the conclusion of a non-aggression pact.

On 18 August Ribbentropp sent a further urgent telegram to Schulenburg saying that the ‘first stage’ in the diplomatic process (the signing of the trade agreement) had been completed, and asking that Ribbentropp be permitted to make an ‘immediate departure for Moscow’, where he would:

“be in a position . . . to take the Russian wishes into account, for instance, the settlement of spheres of interest in the Baltic area”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘ ; op. cit., Volume 7; p. 123).

On 19 August Schulenburg replied that Molotov had agreed that:

“The Reich Foreign Minister could arrive in Moscow on August 26 or 27.
Molotov handed me the draft of a non-aggression pact”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit., Volume 7; p. 134).

On 20 August Hitler himself intervened with a personal letter to Stalin, saying that he accepted the draft of the non-aggression pact but pleaded that Ribbentropp should be received in Moscow

“At the latest on Wednesday, August 27th.”

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit.. Volume 7; p. 157).

Stalin replied to Hitler on 21 August, thanking him for his letter and saying:

“The assent of the German Government to the conclusion of a non-aggression pact provides the foundation for eliminating the political tension and the establishment of peace and collaboration between our countries.

The Soviet government have instructed me to inform you that they agree to Herr von Ribbentropp’s arriving in Moscow on August 23″.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit.; p. 168).

Ribbentropp and his delegation arrived in Moscow on 23 August, and the non-aggression pact was signed later the same day. Its text was almost identical with the Soviet draft which had been submitted to the Germans on 19 August. Neither party would attack the other, and should one party become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other party would render no support to this third Power.

Even more strongly criticised than the pact itself has been a ‘Secret Additional Protocol’ to the pact which laid down German and Soviet ‘spheres of interest’ in Europe.

But the term ‘sphere of interest’ does not necessarily have implications of imperialist domination. Where two states are likely to be affected by war but wish this not to involve them in mutual conflict, then the demarcation of spheres of interest is a legitimate and desirable act.

The ‘secret additional protocol’ declared:

“1. In the event of a territorial and political transformation in the territories belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) the northern frontier of Lithuania shall represent the frontier of the spheres of interest both of Germany and the USSR. . .
2. In the event of a territorial and political transformation of the territories belonging to the Polish State, the spheres of interest both of Germany and the USSR shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula and San”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, Series D, Volume 7; p. 246-47).

In ordinary language, this meant that the German government promised that, when German troops invaded Poland, they would not attempt to advance beyond the ‘Curzon Line’, drawn by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, after the First World War as the ethnic boundary separating the Poles from the Ukrainians and Byelorussians. The area east of this line had been Soviet territiory which was seized from the Soviet Union following the Revolution.

Germany had thus agreed that it would raise no objection to the Soviet government taking whatever action it considered desirable east of this line.

The Effect of the Non-Aggression Pact

Speaking to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union on 31 August, Molotov described the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact as:

“A turning-point in the history of Europe, and not of Europe alone”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech to Supreme Soviet of 31 August 1939, in: ‘Soviet Peace Policy’; London; 1941; p. 18).

Molotov accepted Zhdanov’s conclusion — that the British and French had never been serious in their attitude to the negotiations:

“They themselves displayed extreme dilatoriness and anything but a serious attitude towards the negotiations, entrusting them to individuals of secondary importance who were not vested with adequate powers. . .
The British and French military missions came to Moscow without any definite powers and without the right to conclude any military convention. Furthermore, the British military mission arrived in Moscow without any mandate at all”.

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 13).

Molotov declared that the breakdown of the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations was only superficially the refusal of Poland or accept Soviet assistance, since:

“The negotiations showed that Great Britain was not anxious to overcome these objections of Poland, but on the contrary encouraged them.
Poland . . . had been acting on the instructions of Great Britain and France. .”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 12, 14).

He stressed that it was not the Soviet government’s action in signing the pact which had disrupted the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations. On the contrary, the Soviet government had signed the pact only after the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations had been irrevocably sabotaged by the British and French governments:

“Attempts are being made to spread the fiction that the conclusion of the Soviet-German pact disrupted the negotiations with Britain and France for a mutual assistance pact. . . . In reality, as you know, the very reverse is true. . . . The Soviet Union signed the non-aggression pact with Germany, amongst other things, because negotiations with France and Great Britain had . . . ended in failure through the fault of the ruling circles of Britain and France”.

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 20).

The same point was made by the Soviet People’s Commissar for Defence, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, at a press conference on 27 August 1939:

“Miltary negotiations with England and France were not broken off because the USSR concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany; on the contrary, the USSR concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany as a result, inter alia, of the fact that the military negotiations with France and England had reached a deadlock”.

(K. Y. Voroshilov: Press statement of 27 August 1939, in: J. Degras (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’; London; 1953; p. 361).

Furthermore, Molotov emphasised that the Soviet negotiations with Germany were on a completely different level to the Soviet negotiations with Britain and France:

“We are dealing not with a pact of mutual assistance, as in the case of the Anglo-French-Soviet relations, but only with a non-aggression Pact.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 18).

So that, as a result of the signing of the German-Soviet pact:

“the USSR is not obliged to involve itself in war, either on the side of Great Britain against Germany or on the side of Germany against Great Britain.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.,; p. 21).

Even such anti-Soviet writers as Edward Carr agree that the Soviet government’s decision to sign the non-aggression pact with Germany was an enforced second choice, which was taken only with extreme reluctance:

“The most striking feature of the Soviet-German negotiations . . . is the extreme caution with which they were conducted from the Soviet side, and the prolonged Soviet resistance to close the doors on the Western negotiations”.

(E. H. Carr: ‘From Munich to Moscow: II’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, Volume 1, No. 12 (October 1949); p. 104).

Indeed, some Soviet leaders — notably Maksim Litvinov, the former People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs — urged that more time should be given for the British and French governments to be pressed by public opinion in their countries into serious negotiations for a pact of mutual assistance.

What precipitated the acceptance of the pressing German proposals for a rapprochement was the discovery by Soviet intelligence that the Chamberlain government was secretly negotiating for a military alliance with Germany, so threatening the Soviet Union with aggression from four Powers — Britain, France, Germany and Italy — combined. The British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson, describes in an official report to Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, dated 29 August 1939, a conversation with Hitler and Ribbentropp:

“Herr von Ribbentropp asked me whether I could guarantee that the Prime Minister could carry the country with him in a policy of friendship with Germany. I said that there was no possible doubt whatever that he could and would, provided Germany cooperated with him. Herr Hitler asked whether England would be willing to accept an alliance with Germany. I said, speaking personally, I did not exclude such a possibility”.

(‘Documents concerning German-Polish Relations and the Outbreak of Hostilites between Great Britain and Germany on September 3, 1939′; (Cmd. 6106); London; 1939; p. 130).

The fact that both German and Soviet troops entered Poland has been used to equate Fascist Germany with the socialist Soviet Union. But, of course, a socialist state cannot be equated with an aggressive imperialist state. It has to be noted,

Firstly, that Soviet troops entered what had been Polish territory only on 17 September — 16 days after the German invasion of Poland – when the Polish state had collapsed, as Molotov stressed to the Supreme Soviet on 31 October 1939:

“Our troops entered the territory of Poland only after the Polish State had collapsed and actually had ceased to exist. . . . The Soviet government could not but reckon with the exceptional situation created for our brothers in the Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia, who had been abandoned to their fate as a result of the collapse of Poland”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 31 October 1939, in: ‘Soviet Foreign Policy’; London; 1941; p. 32).

And the correspondents of the capitalist press agree with Soviet contemporary Soviet sources that the Red Army was welcomed as liberators by the Ukrainian and Byelorussian population concerned. Molotov reported:

“The Red Army . . . was greeted with sympathy by the Ukrainian and Byelorussian population, who welcomed our troops as liberators from the yoke of the gentry and from the yoke of the Polish landlords and capitalists.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 33).

In the House of Commons on 20 September, Conservative MP Robert Boothby declared:

“I think it is legitimate to suppose that this action on the part of the Soviet Government was taken . . . from the point of view of self-preservation and self-defence. . . . The action taken by the Russian troops . . . has pushed the German frontier considerably westward. .
I am thankful that Russian troops are now along the Polish-Romanian frontier. I would rather have Russian troops there than German troops”.

(Parliamentary Debates, 5th Series, Volume 351; House of Commons; London; 1939; Col. 996).

It is outside the scope of today’s seminar to discuss one of the most absurd of the anti-Stalin stories — that Stalin trusted the Nazis to adhere to the pact and was completely taken by surprise when the German army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Who can forget Stalin’s prophetic words in 1931:

“We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall go under”.

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Tasks of Business Executives’, in: ‘Works’, Volume I13; Moscow; 1955; p. 41).

Exactly ten years later, in 1941, came the German invasion.

The test of the correctness or incorrectness of Stalin’s policy is whether or not it strengthened or weakened the ability of the socialist Soviet Union to defend itself against the future aggression which its leaders knew was inevitable.

Even such virulent anti-Soviet writers as Edward Carr admit that the signing of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact enabled the Soviet Union to put itself in an incomparably stronger defensive position to meet the German invasion:

“The Chamberlain government ., as a defender of capitalism, refused . . . to enter into an alliance with the USSR against Germany. . . .
In the pact of August 23rd, 1939, they (the Soviet government — Ed.) secured:
a) a breathing space of immunity from attack;
b) German assistance in mitigating Japanese pressure in the Far East;
c) German agreement to the establishment of an advanced defensive bastion beyond the existing Soviet frontiers in Eastern Europe; it was significant that this bastion was, and could only be, a line of defence against potential German attack, the eventual prospect of which was never far absent from Soviet reckonings. But what most of all was achieved by the pact was the assurance that, if the USSR had eventually to fight Hitler, the Western Powers would already be involved”.

(E. H. Carr: ‘From Munich to Moscow: II’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, Volume 1, No. 2 (October 1949); p. 103).

——————————————————————————–

Questions Put By The Audience to The Speaker, And His Replies

Question 1: 

It has been suggested that Litvinov was removed from his post simply because he was a Jew, and as such would have been regarded as unsuitable as a negotiator by the Germans. Is there any truth in this?

Reply: 

In my opinion, no. We know that Stalin supported the replacement of Litvinov, and Stalin was known to be have been opposed not only to racism but to any concession to racism. Litvinov had, personally, been strongly associated with the policy of collective security and reliable sources testify to his conviction that, with more time, the British and French governments would sooner or later endorse this policy. As soon as the Soviet leaders began to give consideration to the possibility of a rapprochement with Germany, therefore, Litvinov ceased to be a reliable instrument of Soviet foreign policy.

Question 2: 

Did Litvinov actually oppose the signing of the non-aggression pact?

Reply: 

I have no concrete information as to whether he opposed it on principle, but he is known to have held the view that more time should be given to allow the Anglo-French representatives to see sense’. But he is on record later as declaring that it had been ‘a mistake’ resulting from Molotov’s ‘lack of understanding of the functioning of Western democracy’.

Question 3: 

In one of Molotov ‘s speeches following the occupation of Eastern Poland, he referred to the Polish state as being the illegitimate child of Versailles and commented that, happily, it had disappeared. This has been interpreted as demonstrating that the Soviet Union always had territorial designs upon Poland. Was the Soviet position one of supporting the destruction of the Polish state?

Question 3a. 

Does this mean that the Soviet Union was prepared to deny the aspirations of the Polish people to have their own state?

Reply: 

There is no doubt that the Polish people constitute a nation, and Marxist-Leninists have always recognised the right of any nation to have its own independent state. The Polish state which existed in 1939, however, did not have its boundaries drawn on ethnic lines; it included, for example, millions of Ukrainians and Byelorussians and I feel sure that it was such facts which lay at the basis of Molotov ‘s statement. In other words it was not any Polish state, but that existing in 1939 which Molotov depicted as a monstrosity. However, that Polish Polish state was not destroyed by the Red Army, but by the German army; the Red Army’s occupation of Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia began only after the Polish state had collapsed and ceased to exist. The Polish state was restored after the United Nations victory over Germany in 1945.

Question 4: 

Was a protocol signed as part of the non-aggression pact which led to a line being drawn across Poland dividing the spheres of interest of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany? Is this the secret protocol referred to in the West and did such a protocol really exist? Was the dividing line the Curzon Line?

Reply: 

The Anglo-American imperialists published the ‘secret protocol’ after the Second World War, claiming that it had been discovered in the captured archives of the German Foreign Office. I know that the late Soviet President, Andrei Gromyko, denounces the ‘secret additional protocol’ as a forgery in his memoirs, but he was a notorious revisionist and not a source I would place any reliance on. As far as I recall, the Soviet government of the time neither confirmed nor denied its authenticity. However, in the Soviet Information Bureau published in 1948, Falsifiers of History, no charge is made that the document is spurious, and this official pamphlet states:

“The Soviet Union succeeded in making good use of the Soviet-German Pact to strengthen its defences, . . . in moving its frontiers far to the West and in barring the way of the unhampered eastward advance of German Aggression”.
(‘Falsifiers of History’; op. cit.; p. 45).

It would seem that this cannot possibly refer to the treaty itself (which makes no mention of spheres of interest or frontiers), but only to the ‘secret additional protocol’. As I said before, I do not accept the view that ‘spheres of interest’ between states are necessarily an phenomenon to be condemned. A socialist state may have its own spheres of interest which it sees as essential to its defence and, where these may conflict with the spheres of interest of other states, it seems to me correct to try to reach agreement with these other states, to map them out in order to maintain peaceful relations with these other states. On the evidence available to me at present, I believe the published ‘secret protocol’ to be genuine. Yes, the dividing line ‘ran along the old Curzon Line.

The above paper was read by Bill Bland at a seminar organised by the STALIN SOCIETY in London in February 1990.

Enver Hoxha on the Era of Proletarian Revolution and Socialism

1525191_643828542329849_369805942_n

“The epoch of proletarian revolutions has just begun. The advent of socialism represents an historical necessity which results from the objective development of society. This is inevitable. The counter-revolutions which have been carried out and the obstacles which emerge can prolong the existence of the old exploiting system to some extent, but they are powerless to halt the march of human society towards its socialist future.”

– Enver Hoxha, “Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism”